The 29-year-old, despite having only 45 minutes of pre-season under his belt, was thrown in from the start in Skopje and duly commanded Man United’s midfield, almost single handedly maintaining the side’s structure as the Champions League winners ran rampant.
He was even on hand to set up Romelu Lukaku’s goal, firing a powerful drive that Keylor Navas could only parry before the Belgian swept home to give United hope.
Madrid managed to hold on but Mourinho, speaking after the game, was full of praise for the way Matic conducted himself on his debut.
“I think he played really well,” he said.
“I think in the moments where they were moving more the ball, of course it was difficult for us in the midfield. But in good moments he was really good and especially in our dominance in the second half after the 2-0.
“In our period of dominance he was what we want him to be: to move the ball in a simple way, to give balance to the team, to start building from the back.
“He is a player with great experience, many years at the highest level and good experience, good stability.”
To put it very simply: Matic gets it.
Mourinho’s biggest task revolves around ensuring his players are in step with his methods, capable of carrying them out like clockwork and moving forward as a collective. Big steps have been made in this department but there are, of course, still a number of areas that require tweaking.
With Matic, however, no such indoctrination needs to happen. The 29-year-old knows Mourinho and knows football at this level. His performance in Macedonia was indicative of exactly that: an inbuilt capacity to master his role, regardless of the chaos surrounding him.
United will be a considerably stronger, refined unit with the midfielder at its core.