Herrera to the fore on his return to the scene of Gerrard's stamp?

Manchester United midfielder has been granted starts ahead of visit to Liverpool

Ander Herrera, Manchester United

Picture by: Richard Sellers / EMPICS Sport

Last time Manchester United faced Liverpool at Anfield, Ander Herrera played a main cast role in the story.

His close friend and team-mate Juan Mata was the box office draw with his acrobatic winner against the Reds, but Herrera had anti-hero status.

On one hand, he was intimately involved with Steven Gerrard's red card which would make him something closer to a hero in his own fans' eyes, whereas the former Liverpool captain using him as a sort of foot rest moments after coming on would make him a villain in the eyes of the more one-eyed Liverpool supporter.

Ander Herrera is fouled by Liverpool's Steven Gerrard who is shown the red card for the challenge during the Barclays Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture by: Peter Byrne / PA Archive/PA Images

As the two sides meet again at Anfield for the first time since that 2-1 win for United (the Reds already have one over their rivals this season having defeated Liverpool 3-1 in the Old Trafford fixture in September), Herrera has been getting a run of games.

Previously in and out of the team, the former Athletic Bilbao midfielder has started each of the last four games, playing the full 90 minutes in the improved showing against Chelsea on December 28th and then again in the slightly fortuitous 2-1 victory over Swansea.

Lining up in the central attacking midfield role ahead of the deeper engine room pair that manager Louis van Gaal favours, he created the joint-most chances for United in their 3-3 draw at Newcastle on Tuesday night with two (Daley Blind was the other to hit that number).

And overall this season, Herrera is United's second best central midfielder when it comes to key passes per game behind Mata.

Although his numbers are modest enough in that regard at just under one per game - it's partly coloured by the fact he has had irregular game-time this season - he is more incisive than Maroune Fellaini when it comes to opening up a defence with some level of guile in the role behind the striker.

While he only passed to Wayne Rooney four times at Newcastle, he seemed to link up well with Anthony Martial down the right flank who he found on 10 occasions.

But on a more important note, Herrera does need to start adding goals to his game. That of course is difficult in a system where ball retention appears to be of most importance in the build-up.

With two goals to his name this season, he has had just nine shots on or off target in 14 games, which is quite a paltry figure, especially with the side misfiring before the midweek fixture.

Last season was an anomaly for him last season, given that he scored six Premier League goals. The 2013-14 season was the only other season that he had netted more than one league goal in a campaign.

The goals from the 2015-16 season were all scored inside the 18-yard box, bar one just outside and if he can make those sorts of runs again against Liverpool, he could find joy against a porous and injury hit Reds defence.

All stats from FourFourTwo StatsZone app, WhoScored and Squawka. Liverpool v Manchester United is also live on Off The Ball this Sunday afternoon with commentary from Nathan Murphy and Kevin Kilbane.