Manchester United: Is Ander Herrera set for a return to Athletic Club Bilbao?

The Spanish central midfielder enjoyed a strong finish to the campaign in Jose Mourinho's side but reports suggest he is set for a return to La Liga this summer.


Reuters/Lee Smith

Manchester United’s squad is continuing to take shape this summer under Jose Mourinho but reports indicate players could leave against the wishes of the Portuguese boss. 

Marouane Fellaini is set to reject the offer of a new contract from the Red Devils to move elsewhere while another central midfielder, Ander Herrera, is also rumoured to be on the move.

The 28-year-old spent a large portion of last season on the sidelines at Old Trafford, despite winning the Player’s Player of the Year award for the previous campaign but enjoyed a strong run-in to the campaign.

Athletic advances

A report in Spanish sports newspaper Diario AS has outlined how Athletic Club of Bilbao – from whom Herrera joined Manchester United in 2014 for a £29 million fee – are interested in a deal to bring the midfielder back to the club this summer.

The Spaniard’s contract in England expires in 12 months from now and there is a possibility that United would be willing to sell the player this summer for a ‘not unconsiderable fee’, especially in light of Herrera celebrating his 29th birthday in August.

REUTERS/Andrew Yates

There is also talk of interest from Italian giants Milan, although their own financial position does not appear to make a move likely, while the player reportedly wants to end his career at Real Zaragoza – his former club whom he still supports.

Despite amassing over 150 appearances for Manchester United, a move away could be feasible this summer, especially following the arrival of Brazil international Fred.

Mourinho’s man

Despite these reports, it appears unlikely that Mourinho would sanction an exit for the combative midfielder this summer. 

After all, it appears increasingly certain that Fellaini will leave the club on a free transfer this summer and both are said to be highly valued by the boss due to their willingness to carry out precise tactical instructions.

REUTERS/David Klein

Herrera’s attitude is what makes him of particular value to United – his self-sacrifice in man-marking Chelsea’s Eden Hazard in a 2-0 victory in April 2017 was a case in point of how the Spaniard could follow instructions to the letter in order to pull off a wider game-plan.

Not without his talent either, it was his cushioned chest assist for Paul Pogba as United began their remarkable comeback victory at Manchester City was magnificent. 

He also recently provided a deliciously weighted pass to Jesse Lingard sparked Jose Mourinho’s side opening the scoring at Bournemouth and, most decisively of all, he netted the winner against Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final following a lung-bursting run.

Facilitating Pogba

Perhaps most notably of all, Herrera’s ability to sit deep and fit into a deep-lying midfield role is why he retains such value under Mourinho. 

Alongside Nemanja Matic, they sat in a holding role which allowed Pogba to advance and do damage to the opposition.

Whilst Fred’s arrival could limit playing opportunities, alongside the development of Scott McTominay, this is offset by Fellaini’s departure and the retirement of Michael Carrick.

Herrera offers cunning and leadership on the pitch and whilst it seems unlikely he will leave this summer, Manchester United may have a battle on their hands to keep hold of him.

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Colin Millar

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Colin Millar is a European football writer, with a particular passion for Spanish and English football, alongside that in his native Northern Ireland. Based in Spain, he is Deputy Editor of Football Espana and writes for a number of publications including the Daily Mirror NI.

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