Ander Herrera was in characteristically feisty mood. In the afterglow of Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Juventus in the Champions League on Wednesday night, the midfielder reminded his team-mates that improvement was still required, said Juventus could have put the game to bed if they had taken their chances, and claimed that the media treats United differently to other teams.
It has been a fraught, febrile season at Old Trafford, one that has taken its latest twist with United’s stunning late show in Turin. Herrera acknowledged that after going 1-0 behind, United “got a little bit down” and could have lost the game in the subsequent minutes as Juventus launched wave of attacks. But after recovering their composure, United hit back in dramatic style. “We believed,” Herrera said.
Victory over Juventus puts United in the driving seat to qualify from Group H for the knockout stages, although Herrera admitted that will progress with a game to spare if they beat Young Boys in their next game and Valencia fail to win at Juventus. “We have to respect Young Boys,” Herrera admitted. “But we have everything in our hands.”
But Herrera also acknowledged the wider significance of Wednesday’s win, the perfect boost ahead of Sunday’s derby against Manchester City at Old Trafford. “It is a win that gives us a lot,” Herrera said. “When you win, you prepare for the next game more optimistically. It’s true that they [City] are the favourites, because they are in unbelievable form. But we are Manchester United. And you never know what can happen.”
Herrera was at his most waspish when addressing the sustained criticism United and their manager Jose Mourinho have faced during their poor start to the season, with Mourinho’s future the subject of constant speculation. “When you play for Manchester United, the biggest club in the UK, one of the biggest in the world, you have to get used to that,” Herrera said. “This is my fifth season, and I’m used to that.
“I don’t care at all. With [Louis] Van Gaal, every day the papers were talking. When Mourinho came, the same, and we won three titles. One day, if another manager comes, they will speak. Manchester United players need to have the personality to cope with that. It’s true that when our Premier League opponents lose games, the papers don’t talk that much. But when we lose, they do.”
Herrera pondered for several seconds when asked whether this display in Turin was a sign of the real Manchester United. “We are the real Manchester United also in the bad moments,” he said eventually. “Because we have to recognise that we have had bad moments, and we have to improve. It’s true that the last results gave us good spirit and energy. But the real Manchester United? We will see at the end of the season.”