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.

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[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.

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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.

Gomes return gives Everton boost despite defeat

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Everton lost the first game of a gauntlet four-game swing, losing 3-2 at Arsenal despite leading inside two minutes of the match. But while Everton left the Emirates without any points, it gained a massive boost with the return of Andre Gomes.

The Portuguese central midfielder, signed from Barcelona, made his return to the field on Sunday off the bench in the 59th minute for his first game since suffering a gruesome injury on November 3 against Tottenham. Gomes appeared to break his leg after a sliding tackle from behind from Heung-Min Son, but in less than four months, Gomes is now back in action.

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“I need to thank everybody. The team, they were great, my supporters, Evertonions, and also in general football supporters, everyone has been wonderful with me,” Gomes said after the Arsenal match. “(It) gives (me) confidence when you feel like you have the support of the people. I just pushed myself to the my limit, I wanted to be back as soon as possible, and I’m glad I have the help of everybody around me.”

This is huge for Everton and head coach Carlo Ancelotti. Without Gomes, and the oft-injured Fabian Delph (though Delph started against Arsenal), Everton really lacked pace and power in the center of midfield. Morgan Schneiderlin is a decent passer but doesn’t have the pace required for the Premier League, and then Ancelotti was dropping Gylfi Sigurdsson further back in midfield to play alongside Schneiderlin or Delph.

With Gomes back in contention for a starting spot, Ancelotti can play Sigurdsson closer to the opposing goal and partner him with either Delph or the still-young Tom Davies, who can do even more running to win the ball back and get it to Gomes.

“He did really well without problem,” Ancelotti said post game. “(He was) very strong in the tackle. The player is really important for us and he will play next game.”

Looking forward, it’s also huge for Everton to get Gomes back because they’re in the middle of one of the season’s toughest stretches. After facing Arsenal today, Everton hosts Manchester United, visits Chelsea, and then hosts Liverpool on Monday, March 16 in the Merseyside Derby.

Galatasaray wins bonkers derby over Fenerbahce

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Goals. Fights. Red cards. Yellow cards. Horror tackles. Passion in the stands.

The Intercontinental Derby in Istanbul today had just about everything.

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For the first time this century, Galatasaray defeated Fenerbahce in the Turkish Superlig, winning 3-1 on the road. With the victory, Galatasaray moves into a three-way tie for first place in the league. As mentioned above, the game featured 12 yellow cards, VAR reviews, two red cards, and countless other dangerous plays that the officials let go with just a warning.

Max Kruse put the Asia-based Fenerbahce in front off a penalty kick that was confirmed by VAR, but Dutch defender Ryan Donk equalized for the European-based Galatasaray in the 39th minute off a bullit header in the box from a corner.

With both teams trading chances, the tempers exploded in the 77th minute after Henry Onyekuru was taken down on the left side of the box. VAR confirmed that decision as well and former Atletico Madrid star Radamel Falcao powered the penalty in to give Galatasaray a huge lead.

Five minutes later, as Younes Belhanda was coming off the field as a substitution, a scuffle that he started with Deniz Turuc ended with both players getting sent off. Awkwardly, Ahmet Calik had come onto the pitch for Belhanda, but Belhanda’s actions just before he left the pitch meant that Calik wasn’t officially in the game yet and the substitution was cancelled. Calik eventually entered as a sub for Radamel Falcao, while both teams were reduced to ten players on the pitch.

In the 89th minute, Fernando Muslera dived to make an outstanding save on a powerful free kick from Mehmet Ekici, and eight minutes later deep into second half stoppage time, Muslera played provider. His long pass from inside the box found Onyekuru in space and the Nigerian dribbled forward, rounded Fenerbahce goalkeeper Altay Bayindir and scored before going into a slide celebration in the corner.

The game had a couple of Premier League connections. Former Fulham midfielder Jean-Michael Seri and Falcao, formerly of Manchester United, both started for Galatasaray. Goal-scorer Ryan Donk played a decade ago one season for West Bromwich Albion and Sofiane Feghouli played recently for West Ham. For Fenerbahce, Mauricio Isla also played one season for Queens Park Rangers.

Watch the highlights from this wild and crazy – and totally on-point – derby below.

Ziyech’s Chelsea contract details confirmed

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Chelsea has confirmed the contract details of talented midfielder Hakim Ziyech who will join this summer.

The London giants announced on Sunday that Ziyech has signed a five-year contract with Chelsea, beginning on July 1 this summer when his transfer from Ajax is completed.

On February 13, Chelsea and Ajax came to an agreement on a transfer fee for Ziyech, reported to be in the region of $43 million.

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“I am delighted and proud to have signed for such a huge club as Chelsea,” Ziyech said in a statement. “I am looking forward to next season and hope we can achieve great things together.”

Chelsea was intent on signing Ziyech ahead of the competition and made Ajax a deal they couldn’t refuse.

The left-footed playmaker has been a star for Ajax and in the UEFA Champions League for the last few seasons, helping lead Ajax to the Champions League semifinals last season. So far this season, he’s scored eight goals and recorded four assists between the Dutch Eredivisie and the Champions League.

Ziyech’s arrival this summer surely spells the end of time for Pedro and William as attacking midfielders at Chelsea. The Dutchman, who usually plays as a right winger, cutting inside with the left foot, could create a great combination with Christian Pulisic, Tammy Abraham, and Mason Mount moving forward. Chelsea could also certainly sign another one in that position, to keep a deep squad in case of injuries and/or fatigue.

Arteta vows to keep Aubameyang: “Our most important player”

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Arsenal completed a hectic week with a hectic win prodded by its two top performers of the season.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice and Bernd Leno made key late saves as the exhausted Gunners outlasted Everton 3-2 at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

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Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was effusive in his praise, relatively speaking, for both players. He said that Leno “saved” Arsenal, and went long on Aubameyang when asked how important the player is to the club’s future.

“Incredible,” Arteta said. “The amount of work he’s doing. Before I had my questions, (but he’s) shown the commitment that he’s shown to his teammates and the club. I wasn’t sure if he wanted to do it, or do it physically. So it’s either you want to do it or don’t.

“He’s our most important player. Stats wise, there’s no question. As much as I can and the club can, we will try to convince him to stay with us.”

Arteta also appreciates the effort his men put in against an energetic Everton side three days after outlasting Olympiacos in Greece.

“Coming back from Europe, three games in seven days, conceding a goal in the first minute, the way we reacted, the way we played for 60-65 minutes was exactly what I wasn’t from my team,” Arteta preened. “The resilience some of the players showed when they were absolutely knackered and kept going and going. This was exactly what I wanted. … Everybody was looking at me, saying ‘I’m cramping. I’m doing this, doing that.’ We could only change two players. I tried to condense the midfield and have a little bit more energy.”

Leno was very happy with Arsenal’s effort.

The Gunners have been much better since Arteta implemented his system, even if their 270-minute shutout streak died in the first minute on Sunday.

“You could see that our power was at the end,” Leno said. “We were fighting. You can see how happy everyone was after this game because we deserve this and we have to keep going.”

Aubameyang praised his keeper.

“We are always happy to have him. He saved us a couple of times at the right moment. We’re proud of him and we know that we can count on him. He gives us more energy to push.”

The ninth-place Gunners are four points off fifth place and, of course, still alive for a Champions League berth through the Europa League.

Staying in the Champions League is probably their only path to keeping Aubameyang, and Arteta’s description of the Gabonese star doesn’t try to disguise the need to keep him in North London.