Van Gaal stumbles on a potential No. 10 in Herrera
Herrera deserves a run in the playmaker's role behind main striker Rooney
PLAY-OFF, 2ND LEG
CLUB BRUGGE 0
MAN UNITED 4
(Wayne Rooney 20, 49, 57, Ander Herrera 63)
- Man United win 7-1 on aggregate
Michel Preud'homme laid out his trap at the Jan Breydel Stadium as best as he could.
But the Belgian probably didn't count on Wayne Rooney torching his plans with an oversized flame thrower.
The England striker notched a timely hat-trick to silence his critics, as Manchester United thumped Club Brugge 4-0 in the play-off second leg yesterday morning (Singapore time) to enter the Champions League group stage with a 7-1 aggregate win.
United manager Louis van Gaal must be pleased with both the performances of his skipper and the team.
What better way for Rooney to end a 10-game drought, and what a grand entrance to the promised land of European football riches.
Yet, it may be his stumble upon a possible long-term answer to a sticky problem that looks like the real prize.
When Rooney swam in the depths of mediocrity during his recently ended barren spell, Ander Herrera didn't feature highly, if at all, on van Gaal's list of potential solutions.
Yesterday morning, starting for the first time this season, the 26-year-old midfielder put in a well below-par performance alongside Michael Carrick in central midfield in the first half, until van Gaal moved him to a No. 10 position to support Rooney after the break.
And the Spaniard began to dance on the wet Belgian turf, to an attacking rhythm so enthralling that van Gaal should no longer dismiss him as an option in that role.
The Dutchman had earlier made no secret of his desire to see a striker take up the No. 10 slot rather than a midfielder, which explains why, in the first place, Juan Mata falls behind Memphis Depay and even Adnan Januzaj in the pecking order for that spot.
Herrera's second-half display should soften his stance.
He scored United's final goal before heading for the bench.
But it was his assist for United's second goal, a precise pass onto the path of Rooney, that was the most impressive play in a dazzling display by the Red Devils.
In less than 15 minutes, before he was substituted in the 64th minute, he showed what he was capable of producing.
On the same note, it will be too hasty to suggest that he is the man who can make United tick.
It is also worth noting that Club Brugge were taking massive risks in defence to chase the game.
But Herrera certainly fits the profile of Rooney's right-hand man.
He possesses the energy, and the guile to thread a pass through the tightest of openings.
He is always moving into positions to receive the ball, and puts in his share of defensive work.
His propensity for quick-passing football gives Rooney the option of playing on the shoulder of the last defender.
Herrera's creativity and eye for goal were witnessed last season, during which he was one of United's best players when they played their finest football between mid-February and mid-April. He ended the campaign with eight goals in all competitions.
The one thing Herrera clearly lacks, is van Gaal's trust.
But, surely, the least he deserves is a decent run ahead of Januzaj.
"I am a team player. I don’t think about me. I am not selfish. I will play where the manager wants me to play. If I have to play holding midfielder, I will do. Last season, I played more as a holding midfielder than as a No. 10, but if I have to play as a No. 10, then I want to help my team by scoring and assisting."
- Herrera, on his position in the United line-up
"He started not so good. He had a lot of ball losses and also a yellow card, so I wanted to change him. But then I saw he was coming back. After that, he plays a good match in the ‘double six’ position but, later on, at No. 10, he was better. So I’m very pleased for him."
- Louis van Gaal, on Ander Herrera