Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera helped his team avoid a fourth consecutive defeat - and eighth defeat in the space of 10 games - on Sunday when he returned from injury in the 1-1 Premier League draw with Chelsea at Old Trafford.
With United in the ascendancy until a David de Gea error shortly before half-time appeared to deflate the whole team, Herrera had been his usual industrious self as a beating heart of the Red Devils.
As his Old Trafford career appears to near its conclusion after strong rumours of an impending free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain, his importance to this United side is underlined by the vast difference in results and performances with and without him in the team in recent months.
There are of course other factors at play as well - differing opponents, fatigue, form of individuals - but the crucial overriding fact is that United still remain unbeaten in Premier League fixtures that Herrera has played under manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Herrera has featured in 11 league games for the new boss since 21 December and United have taken an average of 2.64 points per games in that run. In the eight league games under Solskjaer without Herrera in the team, that average drops to a measly 0.83 points per game.
Overall, they have won 11 of 15 in all competitions with the tenacious Spaniard, drawing twice and losing twice. Without him, in stark contrast, it is five wins from 12, one draw and six defeats.
Cynics will point out United have played Arsenal, Barcelona and Manchester City without him. But it's important to highlight that with Herrera in the team, United have also beaten Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham away from home, and not lost against Liverpool. So it isn't simply a case that he has been involved against poor opposition and not against stronger opposition.
With Herrera under Solskjaer, United have averaged two goals per game and conceded 0.73. Without him, that changes to 1.33 goals for and 1.75 against.
Manchester United With & Without Ander Herrera Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer:
|With Herrera||Without Herrera|
|Goals per game||2||1.33|
|Conceded per game||0.73||1.75|
|Points per game (PL only)||2.64||0.83|
It shows the importance that he carries in his role as the team's midfield linchpin, a perfect complement to more technical players like Paul Pogba and offering greater defensive protection. United have a better shape and more energy when he plays, and the mentality appears better.
It isn't to say that United should be offering Herrera anything he wants to sign a new contract and stay at the club - reportedly up to £200,000-per-week. But it sheds light on a potential oversight when the player was apparently left in the dark for three months at the start of the calendar year at a time when he could begin speaking with overseas clubs.
Had the club shown interest in him sooner, might the loss of a seemingly very important player, on a free transfer no less, have been avoided? It will cost north of £40m or £50m to replace him.
Herrera's immediate future is not a closed matter, although it could be close to being so, but assuming he does leave this June it is appears likely to be something United will quickly regret.