Wayne Rooney-Ander Herrera
Ander Herrera has praised his captain, Wayne Rooney Getty

Manchester United star Ander Herrera believes a solid defence could be the key to success for the Premier League giants this season. Many have questioned Louis van Gaal's defensive style but the Spanish midfielder points out that Chelsea's path to winning the title in the 2014-15 season was down to not conceding too many goals.

Manchester City had the best attack in the top flight last term after netting 83 goals in 38 games, 10 more than the Blues. However, Jose Mourinho's side finished the season on top and with an eight-point gap between themselves and runners-up City due to an impressive defensive record, conceding just 32 goals.

Van Gaal looks to have learnt the lesson this season as his side has conceded the fewest goals alongside Arsenal in the first 11 games of the Premier League – eight goals each – while following their 1-0 victory over CSKA Moscow on 3 November, they registered their fifth clean sheet in the last six games.

Fans and pundits, including Paul Scholes, have criticised Van Gaal for being too defensive but Herrera believes the club is moving in the right direction as far as silverware goes.

"It's a positive that we're not conceding goals," he told ManUtd.com. "We saw it last year with Chelsea; I don't think they scored too many goals, but they didn't concede many either. That's important when you want to have a great season, you can't give away many chances.

"I think we controlled the game against Moscow. We only conceded one chance, which was good. We also created 10 or 12 chances, which was also good – we want to control games and did that today."

United captain Wayne Rooney has also been under scrutiny after a run of four consecutive games without a goal. The England international broke that against the Russian side to silence the critics and has won plaudits from Herrera.

"Of course there was relief [about his goal], but Wayne is one of our most important players. He's our leader, our captain, and we're happy when he scores. When he doesn't score, he fights for the team and that helps a lot as well," he said.

"He's very important, and I think he has a very strong mind. When he doesn't score, he keeps fighting in the same way, and that's important for us. I always say the same: he's one of the best players in the world, one of the stars, and he's not selfish. For us, it's very important when he feels good. When he scores, of course it's better for everyone, but if not he still fights.

"I can only say what I see, and what I see is that he gives everything. We say the same thing every day: he does a lot of things for the club and the team. Of course he's one of the best in the world, his trajectory is unbelievable. The way he fights, the way he trains and the way he gives his opinion to the other players. Maybe those on the outside only see what's on the pitch, but he's also very important off it."