Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United collected three points in a comfortable 2-0 win over Watford at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Having had a total of 21 attempts on goal only poor finishing cost United a more handsome victory.
Mourinho’s team were dominant in every area. Eric Bailly put in a star turn back at the heart of United’s defence, strong in the air and in the tackle which when you consider he was up against Troy Deeney was no mean feat. The big Ivorian also showed a calm constructiveness on the ball United haven’t seen since Rio Ferdinand was in his pomp.
Juan Mata was another stand-out performer, in the first half in particular, he was popping up everywhere, instrumental in everything United created and deservedly grabbing the opener. It was a team performance Mourinho will have been pleased with, but one player stood head and shoulders above the rest.
Ander Herrera was immense for in the middle of the park for the Red Devils. The Spaniards has developed into one of the most complete midfielders in the league. Deployed alongside world record signing Paul Pogba in United’s engine room he was instrumental in their dominance. Intercepting wayward Watford passes, breaking up attacks and starting them for his own team in turn.
Herrera always looks to play the ball forward, releasing it early whenever possible. It may not seem like the most difficult thing in the world to do but it sets the tone for his side. Contrast Herrera’s approach to the game with Pogba’s and it brings into focus what a big difference the smallest details can make. The young Frenchman possesses a greater arsenal of passes than Herrera, more clubs in his bag in golf terms, but so often he takes numerous unnecessary touches, dribbles when it’s not on or gets involved in needless physical tussles.
There was a perfect example late in the first half, Mata was on to received the ball in the inside-right channel Pogba shaped to give the ball with his right, pulled it back onto his weaker left and by the time the ball got to Mata United’s no.8 was offside. This is the antithesis of Herrera’s game. The Spaniard wants to get the ball in the best position for his teammates; he doesn’t care if it looks ugly he just wants to get it there.
Time and time again this afternoon he broke down fledgling Watford attacks, releasing the ball to a teammates immediately. He has become the most important player within Mourinho’s system, staying behind the ball keeping the whole game in front of him his influence has grown to the point where his position on the pitch dictates that of his teammates.
There is still one area of his game Herrera could do with improving, his shooting is woeful. Under Louis Van Gaal Herrera was played in a more advanced position getting among the goals at a decent rate. In this more withdrawn position, his attempts on goal tend to be from further back with the general outcome the ball blazing over the bar.
If Herrera continues to put in this level of performance Mourinho won’t mind the odd shot sailing into the Stretford End.