While it isn’t yet a done deal, it appears as though Ander Herrera will be playing for PSG next season, which has been met with varying responses from Manchester United fans.
Some are devastated that Herrera, who is so passionate about the sport and has made his love of playing for the club known, is set to leave. Others doubt his ability and believe the contract offer he is holding out for cannot be justified for a player who turns 30 in August and isn’t a regular starter.
Herrera currently earns less than £100,000-a-week and is understandably keen to push for the best contract he can get. His next deal will be the last big one he signs in his career and with Alexis Sanchez earning a fortune and PSG offering him considerably more than United, it makes sense he’s unwilling to sign United’s current proposal.
Some fans have bemoaned his lack of loyalty but this is a naïve way to look at it. He owes the club nothing. For five years he has worked his socks off, whether in the spells when he was always in the starting line-up or from the bench. His attitude cannot be questioned. He has always spoken of his love and respect for the club, has never been a difficult character behind the scenes and shouldn’t be expected to earn less or play less than another club are willing to offer him.
This situation could have easily been avoided if the club hadn’t allowed Herrera to get into the final months of his contract before really stepping up their interest. While it’s true that he has rejected several offers before now, United could have sorted out his long-term future over a year ago.
This comes back to United’s clear problem of not having someone employed to oversee the football strategy at the club, on more than a season-by-season basis.
Derek Langley, who was sacked from his position as head of youth recruitment in 2016, has previously claimed that the club wasn’t interested in scouting reports on players like Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong and Dayot Upamecano. Langley had spent 16 years at the club but not long after a meeting with Ed Woodward, where he questioned the competence of the decision makers, he was fired. Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Gerard Pique and, more recently, Tahith Chong, are among the young players he scouted to bring in to the club.
When Sir Alex Ferguson was at United, there was a clear process involved in players coming in and players go out. He had a clear view on how many seasons a player had left in his team and, more or less, got it right when it came to it being the suitable time to let them go.
Wayne Rooney was brought in two years before Ruud van Nistelrooy was sold; Cristiano Ronaldo came in the summer David Beckham left; Michael Carrick joined just after Roy Keane left and as Paul Scholes was in his early 30’s, and so on. But there seems to be nothing like that sort of planning these days.
It might be an out-dated approach now, as you can’t rely on a manager being around for decades to oversee this sort of thing, but since Ferguson’s departure, nobody has filled his shoes in taking the long-term view of transfers.
That is why there are United fans who are rightfully concerned about the likely departure of Herrera. While he isn’t world class, he does a job in the squad and can be called upon when needed. Of course United should sign better players than him, but if they don’t, they’ll have allowed a decent player to leave on a free transfer.
United needed another midfielder even if Herrera was to stay and, given their recent record, how confident can the supporters be that the club will be able to sign two top midfielders this summer?
After the disastrous move to give a huge contract to Sanchez, which has thrown a spanner in the works to a number of contract extensions since, most notably David de Gea, the club has to know they can’t keep paying players more than they’re worth.
But the very idea that Herrera could get his current salary doubled by United, as some sources have claimed he’s been offered, seems utter lunacy, given his age, ability and expected playing time. If Herrera is going to earn close to £200,000-a-week at United, then how long until every other player earning less than that came knocking on Woodward’s door?
The mismanagement of Herrera’s contract exemplifies just how much United have lost their way off the pitch. While they can claim to be the most valuable football club in the world, the handling of their finances comes across as so amateurish.
It will be sad for the fans to see him go, as a player who has connected with the supporters, and doesn’t choose when he will and won’t show up on the pitch.
After beating City a couple of years ago, he spoke like fans wish all their players would.
“When you are a Manchester United player and you know the history of this club, you have to respect the games that are for the fans,” he said. “I feel it like them. I know I am not English and I am not from Manchester, but I really love this club. I don’t want to be just one more player. I want to show that I am very happy here and I want to be here for as long as possible.”
But being passionate, saying the right things and trying hard aren’t enough to earn one of the biggest contracts at the club, not when you’re almost 30 and warming the bench.
If United’s only way to keep Herrera now is to match whatever PSG are offering, then they should wish him good luck and send him on his way. A decent player, a well-liked man, but not worth what he’s asking. Although the irritation of the reality that it didn’t have to come to this will linger, particularly if United don’t make the signings they need to in the summer.