Juan Mata says he misses former Manchester United teammate Ander Herrera as his friend and former colleague had a similar footballing brain to new sensation Bruno Fernandes.
Herrera scored 20 goals in 189 appearances for the Old Trafford side, enjoying a five-year stay in Manchester before making the move to Paris Saint-Germain last summer.
The Spaniard impressed during his time and was voted fans’ player of the year in 2016-2017, ending David de Gea’s three-year grip on the prestigious Sir Matt Busby award.
But the former Athletic Bilbao star, now 30, wanted a fresh challenge and made the switch to the French giants at the end of the 2018-19 campaign.
He’s played 18 times for Thomas Tuchel’s side this season, helping them open up a 12-point gap at the top of Ligue 1 and also book a place in the last eight of the Champions League.
Fellow Spaniard Mata was one of Herrera’s best friends on and off the pitch at United and says he misses his compatriot in more ways than one.
Speaking in a fan Q&A on United’s official website, Mata said: “Yeah, yeah I do. I do miss him on the pitch but also in the dressing room and outside. We were living in the same area.
“We were seeing each other after training for lunch, dinner, to watch football together, so of course I miss him.
“He’s a very good friend; I’m still in touch with him very often. He’s very happy in Paris.”
But Mata also stressed that he missed Herrera’s intelligence on the pitch, likening him to new United star Fernandes.
“When you understand football in the same way, I think it’s enjoyable to play with someone like him or with someone like Bruno now,” said Mata.
“You always miss them when you don’t play with people like this.”
United clearly missed Herrera’s influence in the first part of this season as they constantly stumbled and struggled to put results together but Fernandes has come in and made a huge difference.
It leaves United fans thinking what it might have been like to have both Herrera and Fernandes operating in the same midfield.
The Red Devils were fifth in the table and just three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea when the season was put on hold.