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Mourinho must see Ander Herrera as future Manchester United captain

Ander Herrera was named man of the match in Manchester United's 0-0 draw against Liverpool at Anfield on Monday night.

The home side dominated possession but Herrera was integral in preventing them from carving out too many chances, protecting the visitors' defence expertly.

A few weeks ago, the 27-year-old may have wondered whether he would have even been on the pitch for such a game, given how he had been overlooked in the opening weeks of the season by Jose Mourinho, as he often was by Louis van Gaal.

Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini held the defensive midfield positions, despite struggling to complement each other, and Herrera missed out.

In United's first big game of the season, facing Manchester City at Old Trafford, Mourinho got his starting team all wrong. Having given away two goals in the first half, United had an uphill battle in the second half, but Herrera made it look possible. If United had another 10 minutes on the clock, they would have looked likely to get something out of the game, but they paid the price for the manager's team selection. Had Herrera started, the scoreline may have been different.

In the following game, seemingly still unconvinced by the Spaniard, Mourinho left Herrera out of the starting line-up, and United lost 3-1 to Watford. Thankfully, in the next match, Herrera was given the nod, and United beat Leicester 4-1.

Only Pogba created completed more passes that day, only Antonio Valencia recovered the ball more often, only Daley Blind won more tackles and only Eric Bailly made more interceptions. Herrera, as an all-rounder, who can win the ball as well as he can pass it, proved to Mourinho he was the man he should rely on.

Against Liverpool, Herrera was again the most influential player on the field for United, completing more passes than any of his teammates, and completing more take-ons, winning more tackles, recovering possession and making more interceptions more than anyone on the pitch.

After the game, Herrera talked of his pride in the way his team played, showing they would fight for every ball. This is a feeling that Herrera has expressed several times when talking about playing for the club, even when he's not featured regularly, coming across as a player who is genuinely happy to wear United's shirt.

Given the way he is playing and the lack of competition for his position, with Fellaini and Morgan Schneiderlin clearly not the answer to any midfield problem United may have had, you would imagine Herrera will keep his place in the team.

If that is the case, how much longer should it be until Herrera is considered for the captaincy?

Wayne Rooney will surely be on his way out next summer, as will vice-captain Michael Carrick, who hasn't even played a couple of hours of first team football this season.

Chris Smalling is next in line for the armband, wearing it against Liverpool on Monday evening as he has become more accustomed to since Rooney dropped out of the team. However, it was Herrera who was ordering his team about, Herrera who was getting worked up over every incorrect decision made by referee Anthony Taylor and Herrera who was showing the passion fit for the occasion. It was great seeing him put his all into every challenge, never pulling out, squaring up to Liverpool players and giving the referee a piece of his mind.

Herrera turned 27 in the summer and should be at his peak now. This is his third season at the club and a time for him to assert himself. The captaincy isn't an option for this season but he should be seen as a real contender for next.

Having done enough to impress Spain manager Julen Lopetegui, who gave Herrera his first callup for the recent international break, he's now getting experience of training and playing alongside real world class players. He's also got the confidence of knowing he's now considered good enough for one of the best squads in world football.

Still, as impressive as Herrera is on the pitch, he matches it off it too. Like cult hero Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who joined Shareholders United, or MUST (Manchester United Supporters' Trust), Herrera supported fan protests at Real Zaragoza and has spoken out against UEFA for the way they dish out their tickets for cup finals.

"I'm not trying to be anyone," he said modestly. "I just see it as doing for others what you'd like them to do for you."

Still, he's kept quiet about the Glazers, as you might expect as one of their employees, although he has made his feelings clear on owners like them.

"What I don't like is cases where owners prioritise their interests over the club's," he said in an interview two years ago. "Football can't be solely about profit. Look, no one's stupid: no one wants to lose money but nor should it be about people getting rich off people's dreams."

You couldn't make him up. Popular among his teammates, passionate on the pitch and equally passionate off it. If anyone leads by example, it is him, and Mourinho could do worse than giving him the armband next season.