As the festive period edges closer, the transfer rumour mill is beginning to warm up at the ever-increasing pressure cooker of Old Trafford.
Sky Sports are claiming that Manchester United duo Juan Mata and Ander Herrera could be in line for new deals at the club, with their contracts due to expire next summer.
Both have been utilised in sporadic fashion by Jose Mourinho this season as the red half of Manchester struggles to find any consistency on the pitch.
But are Mata and Herrera worthy of new deals at the club?
Attack, Attack, Attack
The image above illustrates Herrera’s offensive stats during his time at Old Trafford. As you can see, this season, particularly in the Premier League, he has failed to find the back of the net or provide an assist for his club. This is largely down to the fact that he has only started two league matches for Mourinho. Summer signing Fred, World Cup winner Paul Pogba, anchor man Nemanja Matic and the battering ram of Marouane Fellaini have all spent more time on the pitch than the Spaniard. Perhaps this is an indication that Herrera and United should part ways in January.
Whilst Herrera has been more of an all-rounder for United, his best goalscoring season was during his debut campaign when he netted six goals. In terms of assists, he has not been able to match his best of six since the 2016/17 campaign. What colorates his best goalscoring and assist-making season is that he started more games in the league during those two seasons than any other campaign. Spending more time on the pitch does seem to get the best out of the 29-year-old.
Moving on from Herrera, we concentrate on his Spanish teammate, Mata (image above). The 30-year-old has spent more time on the field than Herrera, starting five league games this term. Mata has also scored in every competition this season, including a free-kick during his side’s dramatic late win against Juventus in the Champions League. What is apparent about Mata’s offensive stats is that his average key passes per game and average dribbles per game are on the decline. One area where United are hurting most is scoring those big goals in big games. Mata had a knack of doing that, particularly against arch-rivals Liverpool. But after finding the back of the net on 16 occasions during his first two seasons at Old Trafford, he has only scored 13 goals in United’s previous three campaigns.
Pass Like Guardiola
There is no doubt that the strengths of Mata and Herrera are their abilities to control a game and pick out a match-winning pass.
Firstly, concentrating on Herrera (image of his passing stats above), he has provided an average of 16 passes per game in the league this season. By contrast, Mata has provided 27. Once again, the latter producing more passes is understandable because he has clocked up more minutes on the pitch. But when analysing Herrera’s numbers, there is a steady decline in the amount of time he is spending on the ball. A massive worry because United need players that can make the ball tick from the middle of the park.
It isn’t a surprise that when Herrera was given a regular game time, he repaid his manager and the supporters with consistent performances. During the 2016/17 campaign, the former Atletico Bilbao man started 27 league games for the Red Devils, supplying six assists. Added to that, he was making an average of 67.4 passes per game, with 1.2 of those being key passes.
In regards to Mata, the former Chelsea playmaker supplied five assists last term as Mourinho’s men finished as runners-up behind neighbours Manchester City. The only time Mata was able to match his assist tally of the 2017/18 campaign was when he provided the same amount of assists under Louis Van Gaal.
Defend Like Mourinho
Not many would argue that Mata is the better talker in the final third than Herrera. However, the former 2012 European Cup winner doesn’t match his teammate when it comes to defending the goal. In the Premier League this season, Herrera has made an average of 1.2 tackles per game and intercepted play on less than one occasion. As mentioned before, when he is spending regular time on the pitch, the former La Liga player is delivering the goods. During the 2016/17 season, Herrera made an average of 2.7 tackles per game in the league and an impressive 4.3 during United’s Europa League triumph. From a defensive standpoint, all across the board he was showcasing his all-round ability, not forgetting his performances in the final third.
The potential new deals for Mata and Herrera are not guaranteeing that they will have a long-term future at the club. It could be that United are looking to make some money from their possible departures, either in January or next summer. It is clear that United need a clear out of some sorts. If the Spanish duo are not being picked on a regular basis then leaving the exit door is perhaps the best solution for both parties.