Manchester United fan favourite Ander Herrera has revealed that he hoped he would one day join the club almost three years before actually signing after being blown away by the experience of playing for Athletic Bilbao at Old Trafford.
Herrera was part of the Athletic side that knocked United out of the Europa League in March 2012, eventually making the switch to England in the summer of 2014 for a fee close to £30m.
The Spaniard shone on that day, stirring speculation of a move almost immediately. He was infamously linked with the club in 2013 when fake intermediaries claiming to represent United travelled to Spain during David Moyes' reign, with the deal eventually struck a year later.
The game at Old Trafford in the second leg of the Last 16 tie had made a lasting impression on Herrera, who hoped from that moment on he would have the chance to return as a United player.
"I played against United two-and-a-half years before coming. I will never forget that day, it was in the Europa League with Athletic Bilbao and we had to play against United," he explained in a wonderful video interview with Unscriptd.
"Of course, we were all so happy, we were coming to the biggest and most historic stadium in England in front of fans that have seen the best football, a lot of titles, a lot of great players," he added - United were reigning Premier League champions at the time and had played in the Champions League final against Barcelona at Wembley 10 months earlier.
"I remember before playing during the warm-up, I saw the rest of the stadium. And I thought - I didn't say it to anyone because I was playing for Athletic and I was happy - but I said (to myself) 'It must be good to play in front of these fans'," Herrera continued.
"And then I played a fantastic game, maybe one of the best in my career. We beat United 3-2 at Old Trafford. That day, I realised, one day maybe, I was going to put the red shirt on and enjoy Old Trafford."
Much like the whole Bilbao team, Herrera was all over United like a rash, the kind of combative tenacity that supporters at Old Trafford have come to know and adore this season.
"The next time I played at Old Trafford was with the red badge, playing for United as a United player. I remember it was a pre-season game, a friendly against Valencia, and the feeling was amazing," he said, recalling what happened after the drawn out transfer saga.
"I was already a United player. After a long summer, waiting for that moment, it came and I was playing for United, it was fantastic."
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