Nemanja Matic produced an indomitable display at the base of midfield during Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup on Tuesday.
The Serbian, who featured for 45 minutes against Sampdoria last week, was thrown in from the start in Skopje and went toe to toe with a brilliant Madrid midfield whilst others crumbled around him.
He even displayed his attacking prowess in the second half with a thunderous shot that Keylor Navas could only parry before Romelu Lukaku tucked away the rebound.
His stats from the game shed light on what was a truly complete midfield display in difficult conditions: 1 interception, 2 key passes, 4 tackles, 50 passes, 100% tackles won.
The narrative surrounding Matic’s impending move to Old Trafford focused on how his presence would free up Pogba, but the reality, based on his display against Zinedine Zidane’s men, promises something better: freeing up the entire attack.
Even in the midst of a first half onslaught from Madrid, Matic had the composure and execution to swipe the ball away, muscle into a good position, and send a perfectly weighted ball forward.
He is far from just another stalwart in midfield; this is somebody capable of igniting attacks from deep and United – and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in particular – could reap the benefits.