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Ander Herrera keen to stay at United amid Barca, Atletico interest - sources

Ander Herrera keen to stay at United amid Barca, Atletico interest - sources

ESPN

Liverpool sat proudly at the top of the Premier League this time last year.

The 6-1 home win against Watford that put them there was more emphatic than the scoreline suggests and fans were excited about what they were watching.

A rare visit to the summit did not last long, however. Just two weeks in fact -- and only because of the international break. They drew 0-0 at Southampton when club duties resumed and they were overtaken the next day by a Chelsea side in the middle of a fearsome winning streak.

This season hasn't seen as good a start for Liverpool, with the absences of Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana the key differences. Mane's recent return for a 4-1 win over West Ham showed exactly what they've missed in the last two months.

Some fans do different calculations in relation to how their team is doing. Most focus on the league table compared to last season by date.

Liverpool have 19 points this time around whereas on Nov. 13 2016 they had 26. Others do different estimates, based on result comparisons with the same opposition last time out.

You simply swap the relegated sides -- Hull, Middlesbrough, Sunderland -- with promoted teams Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield respectively.

This calculation has an advantage of factoring in the difficulty of certain fixtures, particularly away games and top-six clashes.

So by this estimate, Liverpool are actually doing better than last season, with two extra points than they'd won from the equivalent games last season.

There is very little science involved in this method, particularly for an erratic team like Liverpool that often blows hot and cold. It is, however, a handy straw to clutch if the proper league table doesn't make good reading.

With Liverpool in fifth place and three points off last season's final position, it could be said things are going OK whichever way you look at it.

What always had to be factored into this season was the European competition. The Reds have faced far more fixtures than last term, yet there they stand; in a promising position for another top four spot and top of their Champions League group after four matches.

This was largely done without Mane -- arguably their most influential player right now -- and with major concerns about their defensive organisation. It's possible, even for the most pessimistic supporter, to look kindly upon Jurgen Klopp and his efforts thus far.

Manchester City have replaced Chelsea as this season's likely runaway leaders but they are in uncharted territory. Despite two titles this decade, neither was clinched until the final day of the season. As good as they've looked so far, any football campaign can go pear-shaped quickly.

Whether that will even be relevant to Liverpool depends upon the next seven weeks' results. It is also a major factor for Klopp, who must be aware how every Liverpool manager this decade was considered expendable whenever results dipped.

In the past Liverpool had shown patience to the likes of Gerard Houllier and even Graeme Souness after poor seasons. From 2010, Rafa Benitez, Roy Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish and Brendan Rodgers were all discarded when the going got too tough.

Liverpool ambitions for this season were always complicated. The club has its dreamers as well as its pragmatists.

Reasonable performances in the Premier League and Champions League may be regarded by many as acceptable, particularly as the hierarchy still isn't prepared to back its manager with the financial muscle often promised but rarely delivered.

All but City appear to have their problems at the moment. Even Tottenham lost games to top six rivals Manchester United and Chelsea. Chelsea seem to have internal issues while Arsenal are their usual flaky, erratic selves.

It feels like Liverpool, with a fairly reasonable run of fixtures for the rest of 2017, can gain enough points to secure their position near the top of the table by the halfway stage. They have their own erratic nature to contend with, of course.

They do have the advantage of numerous attacking and midfield options, both areas where fatigue and an excessive workload can affect clubs badly.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a perplexing transfer at first, scored his first league goal for Liverpool at West Ham and as the fixtures begin to pile up, his acquisition starts to make more sense.

Klopp knows the pressures at Anfield. He'll be only too aware that predecessor Rodgers went from "title winner in waiting" to "expendable" in just over a year.

Klopp reached two cup finals in his first season and had a reasonable league performance in his second, but going backwards is never a good look for a Liverpool manager.

Many fans can maintain a realistic stance while results are decent but it's best not to test their patience too much.

No amount of statistical sleight of hand will alter that.

Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.

Javier Hernandez's mood must have matched that of most West Ham supporters when David Moyes was appointed Slaven Bilic's successor last week.

Sidelined at Manchester United when the former Everton boss succeeded Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013, the popular Hernandez was first loaned to Real Madrid and eventually sold to Bayer Leverkusen.

Although it was Moyes' successor Louis van Gaal who eventually took the brunt of the criticism for dispensing with the services of the fans' favourite, the rot started under Moyes. With the striking options available at Old Trafford when Moyes took over, the Scot decided Hernandez wasn't his first choice and started him in only five games. The player never regained his first team slot with any regularity even after Moyes was unceremoniously dumped 10 months later.

Given another opportunity in the Premier League following his transfer to West Ham in the summer, Hernandez must be a worried man. Injured in Mexico's 3-3 draw with Belgium during the international break, he'll be concerned if his injury keeps him out of too many of West Ham's upcoming games. Once out, he may find it hard to get back in.

Inevitably, Moyes has moved quickly to quell theories isn't someone he fancies. The "everyone will get a chance to show me what they can do," line is the starting point for most managers taking over a new club. In Moyes' case, however, the platitudes need to have some substance. He doesn't have the striking riches he found at Old Trafford. His best chance of succeeding at the London Stadium is to get the players he does have working effectively. He will need Hernandez.

West Ham don't have a bad squad. They are a player or two short of having a balanced side, though, and that's what Moyes has to address. It's unlikely he will find what he seeks in the current squad and an expensive foray into the transfer market will almost certainly be required in January. Before then, Moyes needs to find a way to break out of the malaise and ensure the transfer window means fine tuning rather than panic changes. Hernandez can help him on that score. With four goals in 11 appearances in a stuttering team, he has established himself as a favourite among the fans.

As Bilic tried desperately to try and coax some life from his ailing side, fans were appreciative of Hernandez's efforts. Although he often looked lost as Bilic pushed him wide to accommodate Andy Carroll, Chicharito impressed with his willingness and desire, and the Croatian boss suffered taunts several times when he chose to substitute the player. Although an honourable man and someone who will always be welcomed back in the East End, Bilic sadly lost his way and his failure to buy well in the transfer market and his ability to get the best out of those he did buy resulted in his unfortunate demise in Stratford.

Ultimately, although it may be argued Chicharito wasn't the best option for a club like West Ham, Bilic can't be criticised for trying to bring in better quality players. It's something Moyes will have to get used to very quickly. During the Hammers' puffing and wheezing start to the season, many pundits have pointed to clubs like Brighton, Huddersfield and Bournemouth and shown the work ethic and desire of several underrated players who might have performed well in the Claret and Blue. That's not how West Ham see themselves, however. The move to Stratford has underlined the long-held desire to move themselves back to former glories and big names with big expectations are expected and demanded.

The simple fact is that if West Ham can get Hernandez working successfully up front, they have a player who can score between 10-15 goals a season and that would not only decide their fate in any relegation battle, it could see them so safe by spring that everyone will wonder what the fuss was about.

West Ham fans and owners want that. Just as importantly, if Moyes has any future as a Premier League manager, he will want that too.

Peter Thorne, aka Billy Blagg (@BillyBlaggEsq), is ESPN FC's West Ham blogger.

MANCHESTER -- Ander Herrera wants to stay at Manchester United despite interest from Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, sources have told ESPN FC.

The midfielder is yet to sign a new long-term deal at Old Trafford, with reports in Spain suggesting that has alerted at least two La Liga clubs in Barca and Atletico.

United have triggered Herrera's one-year extension that will keep him at the club until 2019, and there is confidence on both sides that the 28-year-old, who is settled in Manchester with his girlfriend and young daughter, will agree a new deal to extend his stay even further.

Herrera played a key role under Jose Mourinho last season, winning United's Player of the Year award and being named Man of the Match in the Europa League final.

He found opportunities harder to come by at the start of this season following the arrival of Nemanja Matic from Chelsea, but since Paul Pogba has been sidelined with a hamstring injury, he has started eight of United's last 11 games in all competitions.

Herrera is one of five players with one-year extensions in their contracts that can keep them at Old Trafford for an additional 12 months beyond next summer.

Sources have told ESPN FC that United will activate clauses for Juan Mata, Daley Blind, Ashley Young and Luke Shaw, having already done so with Herrera.

Shaw has only made two first-team appearances this season, both as a substitute in the Carabao Cup.

Sources have told ESPN FC that the 22-year-old could leave, either in January or next summer if the club receive an acceptable offer for a player who became the most expensive teenager in world football when he left Southampton for £30 million in 2014.

The left-back is still keen to win over Mourinho and become a regular at Old Trafford but there is a growing acceptance he may have to move on to find first-team football.

Rob is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.

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