By Dave Smith
WAYNE Rooney, of course, claimed today’s sporting headlines with his wonderful hat-trick in Bruges – answering all his critics three-fold – but manager Louis Van Gaal also reserved a special mention for Ander Herrera; another United player to come under the microscope.
Despite scoring six goals in 28 appearances last season, there was some talk that his days at Old Trafford could be numbered but Van Gaal kept the faith and was duly rewarded last night when the Spaniard stepped up to the plate and delivered arguably his best performance in a Manchester United shirt – after a shaky start.
A few wayward passes and an early booking gave LVG cause for concern and I, for one, thought Herrera may well be replaced at half time. But a change of role produced a change in fortunes for the United midfielder who revelled in the ‘No.10’ role; scoring his side’s fourth goal and providing an assist for hat-trick hero Rooney.
His dramatic transformation may have surprised United fans, but not his manager who gave Herrera his first start of the season. On his second half performance alone, it won’t be his last – despite the increased competition for a midfield place following the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin.
Following Adnan Januzaj’s withdrawal at half time, Herrera was given more licence to express himself, and he didn’t disappoint. “He started not so good,” Van Gaal told BT Sport.
“He had a lot of ball losses and also a yellow card, so at that moment I wanted to change him, but then I saw he was coming back.
“And after that moment, he plays a good match on the ‘double six’ position, but later on at 10 he was better. So I’m very pleased also for him.”
Van Gaal was pleased by another clean sheet, United’s fourth in fifth games – and was understandably delighted with their attacking play, despite declaring beforehand that United are ‘better without the ball’.
“We were very organised and we played the ball more simply than before,” Van Gaal added. “You can create in the gaps, we have done that and we scored. That is good.
“We already believe, I don’t think that shall change. We need more victories like this. For the fourth time we kept a clean sheet and created a lot of chances, because Brugge must come [and attack], they were very open. It was relatively easy, but you have to do it as it’s not so easy as everybody thinks. I was happy.”