Manchester United v Los Angeles Galaxy

EXCLUSIVE: Manchester United’s new signing Ander Herrera focused on success

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In his first game as a Manchester United player Ander Herrera was awarded the man of the match award as the Red Devils crushed the LA Galaxy 7-0 at the Pasadena Rose Bowl on Wednesday night.

Herrera didn’t score, but that’s not what he’s in the team to do. His slick passing, ability to create space for himself and impressive workrate in the engine room proved he’s a top player.

[RELATED: Shaw on United switch]

[RELATED: United hammer LA 7-0]

Speaking to PST before United’s preseason tour of the U.S. began, 24-year-old Herrera was focused on bringing one thing to Old Trafford: success.

The Spanish midfielder finally joined United earlier this summer after being close to a move from Athletic Bilbao last August and again in January. After a stunning opening performance of preseason you can see why the Red Devils were so keen to get him locked down. Sitting in front of the back four, always demanding the ball and stroking it around comfortably, Herrera looked the real deal against LA.

What can we expect from him at United this season and beyond?

“I think that one of my best qualities is that I always want the ball,” Herrera told PST. “I always keep the ball. I never hide. I think I have come to Manchester United because the coach and the club want us to be an offensive team that is always trying to win the game.”

Herrera is eager to succeed at Old Trafford and bring trophies back to the 20-time English champions who suffered their worst season in Premier League history last year. The young Spaniard is aiming to bring silverware back as soon as possible but insisted the Red Devils’ new-look side must work harder than ever before to prosper.

“Manchester United must win trophies,” Herrera said defiantly. “United is the biggest club in England and the club has won a lot of trophies. If we are a humble team and we work hard, we will achieve our objectives and we will win trophies. First, we have to work hard. We have to defend together. We have to be a compact team. If we do that, in the future we will be able to win trophies. First, we have to run and work hard as a team.”

With new manager Louis van Gaal preferring a 3-5-2 formation in his first game in charge of United against the Galaxy on Wednesday, the Red Devils and particularly Herrera looked comfortable in possession and kept the ball well. Of course, no disrespect to LA, but United will be coming up against better teams in the PL than the Galaxy. However the style of play van Gaal is promising will be in line with United’s ethos of attacking with panache and pace. Herrera, who combined superbly with countryman Juan Mata in midfield, will be at the hub of that and he loves it.

source: Getty Images
Herrera in action for Bilbao, left, has had a promising start to his United career.

“He [van Gaal] wants the team to attack, always,” Hererra said. “He wants us to keep the ball and keep possession and to be an offensive team. We are Manchester United and we must play offensive. Our fans always want us to win games in that way.”

Herrera already has seven seasons of playing experience under his belt with Bilbao and Real Zaragoza and the Spanish youngster is keen to try and force his way into the full Spanish national team after representing La Roja at every level of the youth setup. The Manchester United man knows his club team comes first, but his dreams of playing for Spain is a close second.

“I wish one day to play for the Spanish national team,” Herrera said. “But I think first I have to do things well at United. After that I hope that Vicente del Bosque will call me up. First I have to do things well at United, because my club is Man United, but it is of course a dream to play for the Spanish national team as well.”

Out of the same mold as the likes of Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, Herrera certainly seems to have a bright future in the red shirt of both Manchester United and Spain. His future is bright, but the man from Bilbao is keen to look to United’s great players from the past to draw inspiration. During their U.S. tour, former United great David Beckham popped in to meet the players and Herrera had his picture taken with Becks. He believes past players like Bekcham is what makes the club great, as well as spurring on the current crop of youngsters to succeed and replicate the success of the past.

“This is one of the biggest clubs in the world that a legend like Beckham comes to visit us,” Herrera said. “It is important for us that Man United’s history and the legends who shaped it act as a mirror for us. We want to mirror their success. Players like Beckham were top professionals and they are heroes for us younger professionals.”

If Herrera carries on the way he has started his United career, he could soon become a hero in his own right.

Seven unheralded stars of this Premier League season

during the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur at Vitality Stadium on October 25, 2015 in Bournemouth, England.
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Look, it’s been a crazy year in the Premier League. Leicester City is top by five points, Chelsea is a bottom-half side, and not one of the league’s top three scorers hails from a team in last season’s Top Four.

So it follows that among the league’s other statistical leaders — advanced and traditional — are some surprisingly shining stars.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Or at least they aren’t mentioned a ton. We plan to rectify that here. By no means do we claim these statistical leaders without fault this season, but hats off to the good they’ve done (or, in some cases, the pain they’ve felt).

Most saves in a starring role

You wouldn’t know it from the goal totals these past few weeks, but Stoke City’s Jack Butland has been playing otherworldly between the sticks. His 87 saves lead the Premier League, and the Potters would be in the thick of a relegation battle if he hadn’t shone as brightly.

Ironman

Eleven players have played every minute of their side’s Premier League campaign this season (a 12th, Gareth Barry, has played all but one). Four of those 11 are goalkeepers, and six more are defenders. The only midfielder? Bournemouth’s South African standout Andrew Surman (above).

Top thief, too

Surman is also the league leader in interceptions with 92. The next seven players on the list, headed by Chris Smalling, are all defenders.

The most under-appreciated of the underdogs

Kante (Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

Leicester City has been fantastic, and people are quick to name Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy as big parts of the table-topping effort at King Power Stadium. Then, perhaps they’ll say something about goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel or defender Wes Morgan.

But how about the Premier League’s leader in tackles. Midfielder N'Golo Kante (right) has 115 tackles, 12 more than second-best Yohan Cabaye of Crystal Palace.

An all-expense paid journey to the massage parlor for…

Five players have been fouled more than 50 times this year, and you need to be around the ball a lot for that to happen. The four also-rans are Southampton’s Sadio Mane, Swansea City’s Andre Ayew, Everton’s Ross Barkley and Mahrez, but the man who deserved to skip to the head of the ice bath line is from Crystal Palace: Wilfried Zaha has been fouled 59 times. And that’s the amount of times the foulers were caught in the act.

Let Newcastle United’s captain climb in second, though; Fabricio Coloccini‘s 47 blocked shots are eight more than runners-up Neil Taylor (Swans) and Christian Fuchs (Leicester).

A man possessed

He hasn’t been heralded like a year ago, and most witnesses would tell you the midfielder’s been playing much worse. No, touches don’t equal success, but Cesc Fabregas‘ 2,027 credited touches are 74 more than the next player despite the fact that he’s the only player in the top four to have started less than 25 matches. He’s also completed 83 more passes than the closest competitor (Surman).

All-around stars

Advanced stats site Squawka uses an algorithm to generate statistics on who just might be the most complete player in the Premier League.

It’s certainly not foolproof, but the best player per-90 minutes would likely surprise you: Mousa Dembele of Spurs (Minimum 15 matches).

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As for who’s produced the most when numbers are averaged out over the entire game, one man rises to the top: Ross Barkley.

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Oft-targeted in the Premier League, Carvalho extends deal at Lisbon

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William Carvalho has been running through the rumor mill for ages, and Sporting Lisbon has made sure they’ll get their due if he ever stops somewhere else.

The Angola-born Portuguese defensive midfielder with 15 caps has extended his contract with Sporting through 2020, a date that carries him through his 28th birthday.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Carvalho is 23 now, and has been linked with loads of big name clubs from Manchester United to Chelsea, Arsenal to PSG.

His new buyout clause is said to be as high as $53 million, and Carvalho hopes his commitment calms his supporters.

“Sportinguistas, I say to you that I am very happy with the deal which I signed up to 2020 and that you will have total effort on my part to be champions.”

Sporting is tied with Benfica atop the Portuguese table, second on goal differential. The club leads third-place Porto by six points, and is still alive in the Europa League. Bayer Leverkusen is up next.

Klinsmann hints at Euro-heavy roster for World Cup qualifiers

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Danny Williams #14 of the United States looks on before an international friendly against Brazil at Gillette Stadium on September 8, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
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If your favorite Major League Soccer players don’t make the cut for Jurgen Klinsmann’s next roster, don’t think you won’t see them in the red, white and blue this summer.

[ JPW: What’s the best XI for USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers? ]

Perhaps it’ll be different for the players who were a part of January camp — stars Lee Nguyen and Steve Birnbaum chief among them — but Klinsmann says the late start of the MLS season can affect fitness for the critical qualifiers home and away to Guatemala.

That means there’s a better chance to see in-form Championship midfielder Danny Williams (above) or Pachuca’s Omar Gonzalez then, say, Orlando City’s Brek Shea or Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman.

From USSoccer.com:

“We are basically looking all over the place. We monitor all the players in Europe. We monitor all the players in Mexico, and obviously we can’t wait until MLS starts as well. It’s really kind of crucial that we see everybody getting in the best shape possible, everybody getting into a rhythm and making statements.

“Then you say, ‘Is the roster you see at the end of March the same one as Copa America?’ Probably not. The end of March comes early for MLS players. The European players are in the full swing, and also Mexican players because they started already a month ago with Liga MX. So we’ll be monitoring everyone.”

We’ve already covered the obstacle that is the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL Olympic qualifying playoff occurring at the same time as the Guatemala matches, but this is still good news for players in England, Germany and other European locales seeking caps in March.

Klopp on struggling Benteke: “He wants to score and we need him to score”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09:  Christian Benteke of Liverpool reacts as he foiled by goalkeeper Darren Randolph of West Ham United during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on February 9, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Jurgen Klopp had his appendix removed this weekend, but it’s doubtful he’s feeling as sore as his big Belgian striker.

Christian Benteke had the opportunity to put himself in the good graces of Liverpool fans with a number of decent chances in Tuesday’s FA Cup loss to West Ham, but couldn’t get the job done.

[ MORE: Match recap | Watch Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

In one case, Benteke put himself in a prime spot only to lash his shot wide of the post. Instead, he’s now at 11 appearances without a goal (despite ripping nine shots against the Irons).

From the BBC:

“I don’t believe in the easy goal. He has to carry on like this. It’s not the nicest moment in his career but he has to work hard. He wants to score and we need him to score. We will work on it in the days, weeks and months.”

Klopp maintained that Liverpool was “the better team” on the night — counterpart Slaven Bilic disagreed — despite conceding a pair of very similar looking goals.

The game could’ve avoided extra time through Benteke’s boots and body, but he couldn’t find his finish again.

The 25-year-old has seen his goal production drop by nearly half since joining from Aston Villa in the summer, and it’s sure to return… just maybe not under Klopp.