Amidst all the hoopla about the world’s most expensive player Paul Pogba and the wealth of options in the Manchester United midfield, Spaniard Ander Herrera has grabbed his opportunity to shine under Jose Mourinho with both feet

The 27-year-old midfielder was arguably the best player on the field as bitter rivals Manchester United and Liverpool played out a goalless draw at Anfield. Herrera’s statistics from the game were top notch, as the ‘Man of the Match’ set a season record for the number of  interceptions made in a match.

This performance is the latest in a series of excellent displays by Herrera. The Spaniard was initially left out of the first team in favour of Marouane Fellaini. But that all changed after Manchester United went through a three-game losing streak last month.

Herrera was brought back into the starting XI and paired alongside Pogba. He has since gone on to become one of the key players in the team. The former Athletic Bilbao player plays in a deep-lying playmaker role, but has shown that he can be defensively astute as well.

While Paul Pogba likes to get into more attacking positions, Herrera provides defensive back-up for the Frenchman. His average position on the pitch is just ahead of the back line and he rarely ventures forward to leave the defence exposed.

This is a remarkable adaptation from a player who was used more in an attacking midfield or ‘No. 10’ role by former manager Louis van Gaal. Manchester United seem like a more well rounded team with the presence of Herrera, and there could even be an argument that he is currently the best midfielder Mourinho has at his disposal.

The likes of Morgan Schneiderlin, Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger, who were all first choice in central midfield positions last season, don’t seem to figure into the Portuguese manager’s plans.

Fellaini’s weak concentration and tendency to get forward make him a poor partner for Pogba, while the 23-year-old Frenchman himself is yet to hit his stride. Fans and pundits had called for tactical changes to better accommodate Pogba after the Manchester derby, forcing Mourinho to give Herrera an opportunity.

The Spaniard has consistently played well since then, and his contribution to the team could have a huge impact on their season.

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