Ander Herrera is a genius on and off the pitch - Juan Mata

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Juan Mata has paid tribute to Manchester United team-mate Ander Herrera after his two-goal salvo in Saturday's 3-1 victory over Aston Villa, claiming the former Athletic Bilbao midfielder "is a genius on and off the pitch".

The Spain international has been in fine form at Old Trafford in recent weeks and produced a man of the match performance to help see off Tim Sherwood's side in the Premier League over the weekend.

Writing in his weekly blog 'One Hour Behind', Mata heaped praise on his 25-year-old compatriot following another impressive display against the Villains, highlighting the pleasure he takes from seeing the £29 million summer signing succeeding at the Theatre of Dreams.

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"I think this is the first time he scores twice in a game and I’m very happy for him!” enthused the Red Devils playmaker. "The truth is he deserves it.

"He is a genius on and off the pitch and I know how happy he was after the game.”

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Herrera had to wait patiently for a chance to show what he has to offer after struggling to break into Louis van Gaal's starting XI at the beginning of the season.

Despite showing glimpses of promise on the rare occasions he was on the pitch, the Dutch coach continued to hold the player back, much to the frustration of Manchester United supporters desperate to see more creativity and attacking prowess in the side.

In more recent weeks Herrera has been afforded more action and the Red Devils are now starting to see the benefit of giving the Spaniard a regular run in the side.

He was voted the club's Premier League Player of the Month for February and has arguably been one of Van Gaal's most consistent performers this term alongside goalkeeper David de Gea.

Bright future

Herrera could have an important part to play in the remaining seven games of the season, as Manchester United look to secure their place in the top four and with it ensure a return to the Champions League in 2015/16.

Manchester United fans: How pleased have you been with Ander Herrera's contribution at Old Trafford this season? Share your thoughts below...

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Premier League
Juan Mata
Manchester United
Ander Herrera

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