Pete Jenson: Herrera had no choice but to deny any involvement in match-fixing

A DIFFERENT LEAGUE: Herrera's career was on the up and up and those close to him say that he had little to gain by putting it on the line

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The Independent Online

Manchester United’s Ander Herrera will have thought long and hard about releasing yesterday’s statement on match-fixing allegations.

The desire to put out an unequivocal denial of any involvement had to be balanced against the fact that any statement serves to keep the story in the news for one more day.

When he arrived at United in the summer he would have wanted to be making different headlines. Ultimately, he did the right thing because there comes a point when there are enough news items that combine the words “match-fixing”, “jail” and “Herrera” to skew the story irrevocably against the player.

Herrera was a 21-year-old midfielder back in May 2011 when his then team Zaragoza beat Levante 2-1 on the last day of the season to stay in the top flight.

He would leave the club that summer for a big-money move to Athletic Bilbao – one that would ultimately lead to him joining Manchester United; his career was on the up and up, and those close to him say he had little to gain by putting it on the line.

Another name on prosecutor Alejandro Luzon’s list of 42 defendants is that of the then owner and president Agapito Iglesias. The prosecution alleges that various sums of money (€965,000 in total) were deposited by the president into nine players’ accounts (including captain Gabi’s and Herrera’s) and then paid back to the president in cash.

The accusation is that this money was then used to pay Levante players to lose the game. Iglesias claims the money was a bonus to the players. But Gabi, who does not deny receipt of the money, is believed to have told investigators that bonuses were never paid before matches and that he believed the request to return the deposited money was related to the process of administration that Zaragoza entered into at the end of the season.

When Agapito took over Zaragoza in 2006 they had just finished as runners-up in the Spanish Cup. Under his stewardship they suffered relegation twice and debts spiralled out of control, passing the  €100 million-mark. Supporters celebrated this summer when he finally left the club.

The wheels will turn slowly from here on in. The trial will not begin until late February at the earliest and all 42 defendants will have to be heard. That would have been a long time to leave the headlines with their allegations hanging over Herrera’s head with no counter-balancing affirmation of innocence.

Herrera’s Facebook message yesterday was categoric: “I have never had, and will never have, anything to do with manipulating match results,” he said. “If I am ever called to testify in any judicial hearing, I’ll be happy to attend, as my conscience is totally clear.”

Moyes may turn to Januzaj to give Real Sociedad a lift

David Moyes is loving life in San Sebastian, where it doesn’t seem to have stopped raining for more than a day since he arrived and where he has seen just as much blood and thunder as tiki-taka – especially in Sunday’s Basque derby.

He needs an injection of quality in January, however, if he is to pull Real Sociedad away from the bottom and towards the European places.

“The president has been very good with me and he is going to let me see what I can do. My intention is maybe going into the loan market to bring in a couple of players,” he told me on Sunday after the draw with Athletic Bilbao.

Adnan Januzaj does not seem to have convinced Louis van Gaal of his worth at Old Trafford. Moyes, though, is a fan of the young forward and the supporters of Anoeta still missing French winger Antoine Greizmann, sold for €30m in the summer, would certainly not object.

There are others at United who would benefit from six months of straight football in La Liga. The Moyes-Ed Woodward connection could function better now than it ever did when the two were at the same club.

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