Forget Mata, can Ander Herrera be Manchester United's Oscar?

Oscar for Chelsea

Can Ander Herrera play a similar role for Manchester United as Oscar does at Chelsea?

Almost a year ago, Juan Mata was sold by Chelsea to Manchester United, with Jose Mourinho confident he would not be able to displace Oscar.

The Brazilian proved a better fit for Mourinho's system, thanks to his tireless tackling, which can be evidenced even now by the two player's approaches this season.

  TeamTackles Won per gameAppearances
Oscar Chelsea 2.22 9
Juan Mata Man Utd 0.33 9

Even as an attacking force, Mata has yet to convince everybody at United, even with his winner against Crystal Palace at the weekend.

Yet could another solution be staring the Red Devils in the face, and help them if not week-in and week-out, then in specific away from home scenarios?

New signing Ander Herrera has been impressive for United when fit, and is back healthy again, featuring on the bench against Palace, having missed the big clashes against Chelsea and Manchester City.

Herrera is a naturally more combative player than Mata, and playing in a withdrawn role, he still creates almost as many chances per game as his fellow Spaniard.

  Won Tackles per gameKey Passes per game
Oscar 2.22 1.44
Ander Herrera 1.8 1
Juan Mata 0.33 1.11

It seems natural to suggest that in a more advanced position behind the striker, Herrera would be even more creative, and his tackling would continue to flourish.

The advantage Oscar gives to Chelsea by doing this is the pressure he places on defences, allowing the Blues to attack from the front. It's why Mourinho saw fit to move Mata on in the first place.

Herrera has played in this role before, regularly for Athletic Bilbao last season, leading his side from the front, and making life easier not only for his midfielder but the striker also.

Given the array of options Louis van Gaal has, with Wayne Rooney in the mix too, and a lack of deeper lying central midfielders, it's unlikely Herrera will be fulfilling this role regularly for the time being at least.

Yet in certain situations, dependent on alternate midfield options, and the need to press to regain possession, which would have been useful away to Manchester City for instance, it is an idea worth exploring, even if it is to the cost of Mata.

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