“I felt the team needed a player like Ander [Herrera] to give us balance, more pressure and to recover the ball faster.”
That was Jose Mourinho’s explanation of why he introduced the Spanish midfielder to the fray in Saturday’s 2-1 victory against Bournemouth.
Herrera came on for Fred after 56 minutes at the Vitality Stadium and former Manchester United midfielder Owen Hargreaves believes he could be the man for the occasion again on Wednesday.
Juventus were given the freedom of the park at times in the reverse fixture and in an exclusive interview with BTSport.com, Hargreaves insists getting tighter in midfield is essential if United are to get anything from the Turin encounter.
“I don’t think they’re going to win the midfield battle in Turin, I think it’s unrealistic to think that considering the form they’re in,” said the former England man.
“But what you have to do is make it difficult for the likes of [Miralem] Pjanić and [Rodrigo] Bentancur who were just cruising at Old Trafford. You can’t allow those guys time on the ball to get their heads up.
“If you sit off Juventus they’ll beat you but if you try and hurry them and put some pressure on them, I don’t care how good they are they won’t like it.”
Juventus had more than 60% possession when the teams met a fortnight ago and controlled large parts of the match, with Mourinho admitting they were “at a different level”.
Hargreaves feels the Man United boss is still searching for his preferred midfield blend, with a permanent partner for Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic up in the air.
Ahead of the Allianz Stadium clash – live on BT Sport 2 HD from 7pm on Wednesday – the 37-year-old thinks Manchester United’s player of the year in 2016-17 could be called upon.
“I like Herrera and I’m not sure why he hasn’t played as much considering how important he seemed to be two years ago,” added Hargreaves.
“As great as Matic is, he seems to have lost a bit of confidence and he doesn’t seem to be at his absolute best.
“Like Pogba, Matic is about 6'3'' and if they’re in control of the ball that’s fine but out of possession it’s hard for them against the small, quick guys. The [Paulo] Dybala’s of this world for example, so maybe Herrera would be a good partner because he’s a bit more mobile and active out of possession.”
The midfielder that will be the centre of attention for the visitors is a certain Paul Pogba who will return to face former side Juventus for the first time.
The World Cup winner spent four highly-successful seasons in Italy – winning four consecutive league titles – and Hargreaves believes the Frenchman will relish his homecoming of sorts.
“He’ll be going back to a place where there was no negativity – Juventus were smashing everyone in the league and he was in a perfect team in terms of playing alongside [Andrea] Pirlo and [Arturo] Vidal.
“Not just for him but for any player going back to a former club it’s exciting, he’ll want to be at his best to show why he went from nothing to a £90 million player with them.
“Pogba will want to blow them away – not in a bad way – but so everyone says “wow” and understands why he left to go somewhere else.”
The 25-year-old is never far from the headlines, his penalty-taking technique the latest in a long line for example, and Hargreaves has much admiration for him because of that.
Much as Cristiano Ronaldo was the star draw at Old Trafford, Man Utd’s number six will have all eyes on him come kick-off and it’s something he’s more than accustomed to nowadays.
“Anywhere Pogba’s been he’s pretty much been the centre of attention from a really young age,” Hargreaves told BTSport.com.
“I think he copes with it better than almost anyone because if it goes wrong at Man Utd it seems to either be Mourinho’s or Pogba’s fault. Nobody else gets anywhere near that level of criticism which is remarkable really, so because of that I think he’s doing a great job.”
Watch Juventus v Manchester United exclusively live on BT Sport 2 HD from 7pm on Wednesday!