When Matic moved up north a lot of Manchester United fans labelled him as past his prime. However, his performance last night told a tale of a player who wanted to prove a point, and do a job not for himself but for the team.
For 90 minutes he sweated and battled in the musty Skopje heat, in United’s 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid. Nicknamed ‘The Beast’ at Chelsea, it was unsurprising that the Serb replicated his style of play on his competitive debut for the Red Devils, breaking up numerous Madrid attacks on a constant basis.
In attack he proved efficient, getting an assist for Romelu Lukaku’s tap-in goal. Matic’s 62nd minute effort from 30 yards, a similar position to his FA Cup semi-final cracker last May, troubled Keylor Navas so much the goalkeeper could only push it towards the direction of the oncoming United striker.
Mourinho opted for a 3-5-2 formation with Matic the enforcer in midfield, sitting in-front of Chris Smalling and new signing Victor Lindelof, while his aggressive nature allowed Paul Pogba the freedom to roam. If it wasn’t for poor decision making then Pogba could have bagged a goal himself.
Matic’s tackle success rate of 100%, by far the highest in the match, optimised why Mourinho did not punt for Fabinho or Eric Dier in that position. He has worked with Matic before and the two understand each other inside out.
At 29 the Serb is experienced enough to guide United towards a Premier a League title challenge. The question most United fans are asking is can he still perform to that standard? From last night’s performance the answer is a categorical yes.