x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Athletic Bilbao's Ander Herrera is a wanted man by football clubs

Manchester United are the first of what likely will be many who will come calling on Athletic Bilbao for the services of Ander Herrera, writes Andy Mitten.

Ander Herrera never asked for a move away from Athletic Bilbao, but rather other teams noticed his talent and demeanour.
Ander Herrera never asked for a move away from Athletic Bilbao, but rather other teams noticed his talent and demeanour.

It was the morning after a heavy night, but Ander Herrera was all smiles as he trained with his Athletic Bilbao teammates.

A day earlier the attacking midfielder was awaiting confirmation that he was to fly to Manchester and sign for United in a €36 million (Dh174.2m) deal. His club had been talking with Manchester United for four days and his agent was convinced that a deal was likely.

It did not happen.

The collapse of the deal angered many Manchester United fans who had watched their new coach, David Moyes, and team chase players all summer but fail in attempts to sign all but Marouane Fellaini from their English Premier League rivals Everton.

They expected more; fans of one of the three biggest clubs in world football do.

United had money, but spending it proved difficult, even though they kept trying.

Herrera was one of five players in Spain who United attempted to buy in the last month.

All failed.

And Herrera wanted to move.

He never asked to leave Athletic, where he is perfectly happy, but the lure of Uefa Champions League football would have seen him join United had the clubs agreed a deal.

He appeared untroubled on Wednesday when he faced the media to quell rumours of any discontent and say: "I am very happy at Athletic. "I just have in my head to play a good season" at the new San Mames stadium.

He will be spared the abuse from his own fans, such as what Fernando Llorente received after asking to leave the Basque giants.

Meanwhile, Moyes and United will look at how they can improve their transfer operation.

They need to.

And, when the frustration subsides, Herrera will realise that his stock has been boosted.

His profile was always lower than his ability because he did not score goals, let alone spectacular ones.

And because he was thoughtful in interviews rather than controversial, because he never angled for a move.

Iker Munian may have been so young he grabbed headlines, Llorente was the star forward and Martinez the flawless Spanish international midfielder, but now it is Herrera's time to shine.

Herrera is dependable, trustworthy and reliable, on and off the field, and it was all those qualities that made him attractive to United as long ago as 2009, when he was at Real Zaragoza.

Moyes and his scouting team will continue to watch him closely. And so will millions, who now know who he is.

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE