Herrera and Shaw: Major part of United's rebuilding

Ed Woodward was under constant criticism last season regarding his transfer dealings, but the United chief seems to have made up for that with two big signings...

By Shikharr Chandra

After last summer's disastrous transfer window, Manchester United and specially Edward Woodward, who took over as United's CEO from David Gill seem to be making up for lost time. The Red Devils completed the signings of Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera in the last 48 hours, as they get ready to begin life under Louis Van Gaal.

Last season was a debacle of magnanimous proportions, to say the least, for the 20-time Premier League champions. They finished seventh in the league and failed to win any silverware. New manager David Moyes was sacked in less than nine months and Woodward was under constant criticism as he failed to sign a marquee player after having targeted some of the best in the business.

One of the key reasons for United's failure last season was that they left everything until the very end. Marouane Fellaini's signing was done in the final few hours of the deadline day while they wasted their energy and time on Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara who chose not to join United.

The only silver lining would come later in the January transfer window, in the signing of Juan Mata from Chelsea.

This season though, the club seems to have learnt from their previous mistakes. Herrera who was a target for the club last season as well, but ended up staying at Athletic Bilbao after a farcical attempt to sign him that included fake lawyers, came to be the first signing in the Van Gaal era. The £28 million signing seems to be the right fit in an area where the club desperately needed re-enforcements, especially since the departure of Paul Scholes.

Herrera is no stranger to the Old Trafford crowd. The Spaniard was part of the Bilbao side that defeated United in their Europa League clash back in 2012, and the midfielder was involved at the heart of everything. The 24-year old playmaker is not one of the most renowned names in modern football but is someone who can play a key role in helping United achieve their targets for next season.

Herrera registered five goals and five assists last season, not the most satisfying statistic for a playmaker but it was his overall contribution that made him such a prized asset for the Basque club.

In his 33 league games last season, he created 54 chances and played a major role in the defensive half as well, making 103 tackles and 33 interceptions, almost thrice that of what Fabregas managed at Barcelona.

This is what makes him the ideal player for United. The club needs someone to fill in the gap Scholes left and Herrera seems to be that sort of player. His impressive performance against Barcelona in the league highlighted that he can put in a top display against some of the best in the world.

The best part about the Basque-born player is that his playing style allows him to fit into any midfield position. At Bilbao he used to play right behind the front trio of attackers in a three man midfield proving to be an able partner for Iker Munain, Markel Susaeta and Aritz Aduriz.

Herrera also offers the ability to play in a two-man midfield which Manchester United are suited to. "I can play as a number 6, number 10 but I am best suited as a number 8," he said in an interview.

One may raise doubts over how he would adjust into the Premier League which is known to be very physical given that he would be up against the likes of Yaya Toure and Nemanja Matic. However his dribbling ability is much superior than most.

The Spaniard though, is the kind of player who loves the ball at his feet. Van Gaal who usually prefers a 5-3-2 or a 4-3-3 formation would be glad to have a player like Herrera in his ranks. He loves exchanging passes with his team-mates, getting in those gaps and has the ability to dictate play from the middle. While his goal scoring ability remains one of his major weaknesses, but United already have a star studded front line for that job.

Along with Herrera, Manchester United's rebuilding process continues with the signing of Luke Shaw from Southampton. Shaw's signing offers another option to United in an area where they have been short of quality with the exception of Patrice Evra.

 One of the most highly regarded teenagers, Shaw has taken the world by storm following his impressive season with Southampton. The 18-year old was a mainstay in the Saints defense and his performances earned him a call up in the national side for the World Cup.

The full-back was pursued by Chelsea and United since January which only highlights the quality he brings to the table.

Unlike Herrera, Shaw knows what it is like to play in the Premier League. He has already played against some of the finest attackers in the league and along with his impressive defensive duties, he offers support in the attack as well.

Despite his age, Shaw’s maturity level can be seen in his decision making. He already looks like a seasoned defender, despite playing in the league for a mere two years.

Rejected by his boyhood club Chelsea because of his diminutive size, at six feet tall now, Shaw comes across as one of the most physical left backs in the league. Sir Trevor Brooking described him as "one of the most technically gifted players".

With two quick signings already, United seem to have put the horror of last summer behind them. The Van Gaal era seems to be heading in the right direction by strengthening two areas where the club was in desperate need of players.