The likely departure of Ander Herrera from Manchester United this summer has sent the club’s fans into a tizzy, eliciting reactions all across the spectrum.
Plenty are lamenting losing someone who clearly loves the club, but an equal number of fans are either happy to thank him for his services and send him on his way or accusing him of a lack of loyalty.
As a player, Herrera is one who wears his heart on his sleeve. That particular quality, along with his own talent, had many installing him as United’s next captain, ahead of more gifted players like Paul Pogba, while the way Herrera connects with supporters made him out to be someone who truly gets what it means to play for the club.
He, along with fellow Spaniards Juan Mata and David De Gea, have also professed their love for the city, and seeing them strolling around Manchester has become a common sight for fans.
And then came the last international break, and revelations that Herrera, who is out of contract this summer, is in the middle of negotiating terms with Paris Saint-Germain.
The Ligue 1 giants have reportedly offered to more than double his wages, with a new deal worth up to £200,000 a week, a wage United are not ready to match. Many fans agree with that stance, believing for all his talent and commitment, that wage is exorbitant for someone who has made only one national team appearance and would not even crack the top-20 list for midfielders in Europe.
And the fact that he’s not willing to sign a new contract at United that is worth less than what the Ligue 1 champions are offering has rubbed some the wrong way, as fans say someone who claims to love the club should take a pay cut.
The responsibility United bear in this situation shouldn’t be ignored. This is an age where letting a player enter a season with only a year left on their contract is criminal.
On top of that, reports state United never seriously engaged Herrera in extension talks until they realised there was a possibility he could leave – even after the January deadline passed allowing him to negotiate with clubs outside of England. That was the month when United signed Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, and Scott McTominay to new contracts, even though none were on expiring deals.
⚖ - Manchester United or PSG?— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) April 12, 2019
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says contract talks between midfielder Ander Herrera and the club are still ongoing, despite the midfielder holding talks with the French champions: https://t.co/jZifBGOS52 pic.twitter.com/ojvXF1S62h
So the question arises: is Herrera being disloyal?
The sheer scale of numbers in football distort this conversation. United’s reported offer of £150,000 per week is double his current wage, and the sort of salary most of the fans offering their opinions on Twitter can’t even dream of. Their opinion that Herrera should be satisfied with that offer, and take it, is understandable given that perspective.
But in what other profession would people expect an employee to choose a 100-per-cent wage hike over a 167-per-cent raise? There aren’t many people who “love” their employers enough to turn down that sort of extra money.
It’s hard to accept that Herrera can love United, perhaps even kiss the badge – common trigger for fans – at his next appearance, and still not take an offer that works out to £600,000 per month.
Yet when he sees the money everyone else is making at United, Alexis Sanchez, a more talented player but one whose performance level has been far below that of Herrera, while earning a reported £400,000 per week, the midfielder is entitled to wonder if he’s being paid what he’s worth. Especially when there’s another club offering significantly more.
Why should Herrera take the same deal that players who haven’t been as consistent as he has have been offered? Should he really be earning a similar wage to Smalling and Jones – another United mistake, as the mismanagement of the wage structure has been laid bare? Especially when he turns 30 this summer, and this could be the last big contract negotiation of his career?
#MUFC offered Ander Herrera huge pay rise with 4-year contract worth over £200,000 a week. PSG offered him more money, and he chose them. #MUFC wanted to keep him, but not prepared to go up to £300,000 a week for squad player turning 30 soon. It is Herrera's decision to leave— Sam Pilger (@sampilger) April 12, 2019
Herrera is leaving. (Most likely.) He’s also been a committed, passionate player who has proved his love for United.
Those statements may seem contradictory and incompatible, but that’s the truth of modern football: a player can be loyal to a club and still decide not to stay.
Young is currently United’s captain with club captain Antonio Valencia enduring a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to an injury, but has been criticised for recent performances which saw him get sent off during a 2-1 loss against Wolves and then struggle to make an impact in Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final.
But Ince compared Young to Liverpool’s James Milner, citing the influence the 33-year-old brings as a senior figure at the club.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks for Ashley Young, with the sending off against Wolves and his poor performance against Barcelona,” Ince said.
“But the fact is, you know what you’re getting with him.
“He’s a senior player, a great pro that has been at United for years, and it’s not fair to make him a scapegoat now.
“He’s the James Milner of Man United. But the fact is, as you get older it gets more difficult.
“He’s no spring chicken, so you’re going to have appearances where you’re not at your best, and that’s what we’re seeing with him now.
“But he’s still a leader, he talks and gives 100%. He was no worse than anyone else on Wednesday [against Barcelona], but fans like to have someone to blame.”
Young has won every major trophy at United barring the Champions League since joining in 2011, a spell that has seen him make over 230 appearances for the club.
Press Association Sport understands that the 29-year-old was intending to stay at Old Trafford and sign a contract extension, only for a lack of communication to see the Spaniard plan to leave at the end of his deal.
Herrera is believed to have committed to Paris Saint-Germain over another option, although Solskjaer’s appointment brought up a renewed push from United to agree terms to keep him beyond the summer.
“He’s been working really hard to get fit from his injury that he sustained against Liverpool,” the Red Devils boss said.
“Then he came back, and he got a different one here in training because he’s been really putting a lot of work in.
“And, unfortunately, that’s come at a time where, as you say, there are contract talks but that’s ongoing, so I can’t really comment too much on how far they have come down the line and what he’s deciding.
One to keep an eye on 🧐— Manchester United (@ManUtd) 12 April 2019
Our record v the Hammers 🔨
Rivals watch 👀
“Well, you have to ask him (if there is any chance of him staying). I don’t know how they’ve been, the last few talks, but we’ve let him focus on his fitness as well.
“He loves to play and he’s not very happy when he can’t help his team-mates and he’s always giving his all – it doesn’t matter if he’s got five years left of his contract or five weeks.”
Herrera is ruled out of Saturday’s Premier League clash against West Ham with a muscle complaint sustained shortly after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Solskjaer, rather surprisingly, suggested that those injury issues could have been contributed to by the uncertainly over his future.
“Maybe the future might have been worrying him and maybe that’s part of the reason that he’s injured,” the United boss said. “Who knows?
“He doesn’t know because he got a different injury in training. Hopefully he can be available for around about Chelsea (April 28), City (April 24) but I’m not sure because he got another muscle injury.”
Herrera is one of a number of absentees for this weekend’s match against the Hammers, with Nemanja Matic likely to be laid low again by illness.
Luke Shaw and Ashley Young are suspended but Matteo Darmian is available and Marcos Rojo could well come in at left-back for his first start under Solskjaer.
Eric Bailly and Antonio Valencia also look set to miss out once again, so too forward Alexis Sanchez as he returns from an ankle injury.
“He is training with us,” Solskjaer said of the Chile forward. “He’s trained twice. He’ll train today.
“I’m not sure if he’s going to be available. He’s injury free but I am not sure if he’s 100 per cent for tomorrow, maybe more likely for the Barcelona game (next Tuesday), so let’s see.”
Solskjaer will have half an eye on Tuesday’s trip to the Camp Nou when selecting his side on Saturday, although he is well aware of the need to win.
Already three points off the top four heading into the weekend, United have lost four of their last five matches in all competitions.
“You’re never happy when you don’t win games, but it’s been a period now where we’ve played some good teams,” Solskjaer said.
“We had some good performances, but we haven’t had the quality in front of goal and belief maybe in front of goal that we should have because against Wolverhampton and Arsenal, the two league games, two of the last three, we should have won with the amount of chances.
“So, we’ve been practising. As a striker I know how important that little belief is and trust in yourself, so we’ve been putting balls in goals.”