Nemanja Matic produced a wonderfully robust display in the middle during Manchester United’s 3-1 win over Arsenal in the Premier League.
Jose Mourinho announced on Friday that Matic was a big doubt to start the game after coming off with a muscle problem against Watford but he was passed fit to start alongside Paul Pogba.
And supporters will be thanking the footballing gods for Matic’s presence at the Emirates, with the Serbian placing himself at the centre of an indomitable defensive display from the visitors.
His numbers from the game point towards just how ubiquitous he was whenever Arsenal poured forward.
Matic's game by numbers vs. Arsenal:
4 aerial duels won
80% tackles won
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) December 2, 2017
Amid the chaos of Man United snatching two early goals, Arsenal doing seemingly everything apart from scoring in the first half, actually scoring one just after half time, Jesse Lingard grabbing a brace and Paul Pogba being sent off, you may have failed to notice the important of Matic to what was a classic – and vital – Mourinho win against a top side.
While Roy Keane was labelled as Sir Alex Ferguson on pitch, Matic can be rightly regarded as the embodiment of the 54-year-old’s overall approach: steadfastly disciplined, brimming with confidence and stature, doing what it takes to frustrate the opponent and sustain, before ultimately emerging victorious.
Wherever Arsenal went, his imposing frame was there – a perpetual bulwark against Arsenal’s attacking rancour, seemingly always there in the knick of time to vanquish whatever was thrown in his direction.
Following a handful of underwhelming displays, Matic was reminded everybody of just why he has two Premier League titles under his belt.