The moment that summed up why Ander Herrera is probably Manchester United's most important player
Ander Herrera is arguably Manchester United's most important player.
Paul Pogba is the team's most expensive player, David de Gea is United's most talented player and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, before his injury, was the team's talisman. But Herrera is United's most important player, the one who knits it all together.
The Spaniard is to Jose Mourinho what Roy Keane was to Sir Alex Ferguson - he represents the manager on the pitch.
Herrera carries out his manager's instructions expertly, sacrificing a part of his game to sit deep in midfield and control the game, through his passing and ability to sense danger and put out fires.
"This is just football but what happened two days ago was horrible" https://t.co/k9O13hO2ja
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) May 25, 2017
Herrera was something of a bit part player under Louis van Gaal, rarely getting a significant run of games.
However, under Mourinho, he is indispensable.
The 27-year-old, who recently won the club's player of the year aware, has shown his importance to United time and again this season.
He never shies away from taking responsibility and is a very intelligent player. Herrera seems to see things a second or two before others, and is essential to implementing Mourinho's tactical plan.
Herrera took control of the situation here https://t.co/1p7JmGcAIf
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) January 16, 2017
That was evident in the Europa League final on Wednesday night, which United won 2-0 and Herrera won the man of the match award.
The Spaniard, despite not touching the ball in the passage of play, had a key role in United's second goal. Just after half-time, Mourinho's side won a corner and brought their big men forward.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan could be seen walking away from the Ajax penalty area - until Herrera spotted him.
The Spanish midfielder marched over to his teammate and instructed him to get back in the penalty area.
Here's how it happened:
And here's what Herrera's quickness of thought, and Mkhitaryan's skill, led to:
Lee Dixon, who was alongside Ryan Giggs and Paul Ince for ITV's highlights of the final, was the one who spotted Herrera's act in the goal.
If Wayne Rooney does depart United this summer, it wouldn't be a surprise if Herrera inherits the captain's armband.