It was his first goal for Manchester United. My word, it was one to remember. The type of strike that could result in an obituary for any opposition team. Even Nemanja Matic probably thought it was unlikely to ripple the back of the net from that distance.
Michael Carrick screamed pass on the bench. Marcus Rashford echoed that infamous phrase on the touchline, covered in sweat, filled with adrenaline with the curtains closing in and time almost up.
Jose Mourinho must’ve have been thinking that all the hard work that came before would’ve gone for nothing. Alexis Sanchez to his left, Mata to his right, the options were there. But for the Serb, there was only one. It was the best decision of his career at the Red Devils.
Not since a Wayne Rooney inspired comeback at the KC Stadium in 2013 had United recovered from two goals down to triumph and take home maximum points. But tonight proved that although there is inconsistency, mental strength is still embedded deep within the chasms of the players.
And Matic epitomised it. In truth, it was not his best performance in the shirt. The authoritarian display against his old-club Chelsea was probably better, creating a theory that in midfield, although the pace and intensity are lacking in moments, the awareness and acuteness of passing will cause havoc.
In terms of age Matic is not getting any younger but the Serb has adapted his play to suit United, keeping the flow of the ball moving, the momentum ticking, with other protagonists like Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay able to drive forward to link the play together.
Yet Matic’s positioning can take your breath away. For a player like that, he is getting out of position against pace, which is not the best decision he could ever wish to make. So being in the right place at the right time is crucial.
Against Palace, he proved that. With the firepower of raw pace that Roy Hodgson had at his disposal, it was crucial that Matic became the figurehead of protecting the edgy back-line. He managed that to some extent.
Being blunt, if United had lost or even drawn that game then perhaps criticism may have been more likely, especially given the first half was utterly atrocious.
Yet it’s rare in football to find a winner like that. To manage to strike the ball like that when you’re five to the good is something. This was 2-2 with two minutes to go. Special eh?