No matter what happens at AC Milan the rest of the season, the Rossoneri will need to strengthen the squad in the summer.
Milan appear to have already identified a key target for the summer, as reports are linking them to Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera. The Rossoneri will reportedly offer Manchester United more than 35 million euros, and they will offer Herrera a chance to return to regular first-team football.
While Milan could enter the summer in a tricky situation if they don’t qualify for the Champions League, this move seems like a win-win-win for Milan, Manchester United and Herrera.
Jose Mourinho, an old friend of Milan’s from his opportunistic time at Inter post-Calciopoli, is building quite a squad at Manchester United. One of his most notable signings this season has been Nemanja Matic, who has quickly asserted himself as a key cog in the midfield at Old Trafford.
This is great for Manchester United, but creates problems for Herrera. Crazy as it sounds, Herrera went from being Manchester United’s Player of the Year in 2016-17 to being a bench player. His skills have not diminished. He does not have an attitude problem he is being punished for. Mourinho just cannot possibly justify putting either Matic or Paul Pogba on the bench. Unfortunately for Herrera, he is the odd man out.
Mourinho apparently wants to keep Herrera, but that seems impossible. Herrera is in his prime at 28 (he turns 29 in August), and it is hard to imagine he will want to continue sitting on the bench. And with Mourinho’s insistence on a more defensive setup, there is no way Herrera could force Matic out, and no one is starting him over Pogba. If the right offer comes in and Herrera wants to leave, Mourinho and Manchester United will have a hard time hanging on to the talented midfielder.
Naturally, if United’s former Player of the Year goes on the market, a lot of European clubs will be on the phone. If reports are true, Milan will be one of those clubs, and that is a great thing.
Gennaro Gattuso has switched Milan back into a 4-3-3, with Lucas Biglia situated as the defensive midfielder with two center-halves, presumably Giacomo Bonaventura and Franck Kessie. Both Kessie and Bonaventura are reliable in the middle of the park, but Herrera could come in and instantly push his way into one of their positions. A Kessie-Herrera pairing could be quite exciting. Kessie is a bulwark, cut from the same cloth as Gennaro Gattuso, but he has that ability to spring forward and compliment the attack. Herrera is more capable of tracking back than Bonaventura, who needs to be in more of a playmaking role, which is why he is probably better suited as a No. 10 when needed or an alternative to Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu on the wings.
Check out this video of Herrera’s performances in 2016-17. It’s not hard to see why he was chose as Manchester United’s best player. Watch his ability to win the ball in the middle of the park, his ability to escape tight spaces while on the ball and his ability to thread the needle on the pass. This kind of player is too good for the bench. Not to mention Milan desperately need a player like this.
He offers Milan all that ability, and he offers something the club has been devoid of this season. One of the Rossoneri’s biggest issues, as mentioned in The AC Milan Offside’s inaugural podcast, is an apparent disconnect between the defensive and attacking thirds of the pitch. Part of the reason Milan are struggling to score is the absence of a central midfielder who can run point on an attack through the middle of the park. The Rossoneri have great wingers in Calhanoglu and Suso, but who’s pulling the strings through the midfield? Herrera is capable of being that player for Milan, the way he was at times for Manchester United last season.
Milan offer Herrera an opportunity to be back in a starring role, and Herrera offers Milan the kind of midfielder they really need. Of course, any transfer report in February needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but this one could get Milan fans thinking and keeping an eye on Herrera’s performances the rest of the season. If he is available come July, Milan need to act, whether they have Champions League football to look forward to or not.