Nemanja Matic treated Manchester United fans to a midfield masterclass on his Premier League debut against West Ham United.
Antonio Conte recently admitted that losing the Serbian was a ‘big loss’ and following this weekend’s events you have to wonder whether he actually has any hair left.
Matic was simply sublime, using his domineering physical presence, awareness of what surrounds him and, perhaps surprisingly, immense skill on the ball to reduce West Ham’s midfield to the role of spectators.
A quick look at his stats reveal the complete nature of his display as United claimed an emphatic 4-0 win over Slaven Bilic’s men.
Matić's game by numbers vs. West Ham:
4 aerial duels won
100% dribbles completed
100% tackles won
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) August 13, 2017
Something became apparent in Matic’s game today that hasn’t received nearly enough attention: that the Serbian is actually a very attacking player.
The likes of Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick base their approaches on control – either through sheer tenacity or cleverly manipulating the ball – but Matic’s approach revolves around control and attack.
Indeed, the two are inextricably linked in the way he goes about his business. He dominates opponents by shielding the ball and moving it forward purposefully, always looking to break through the lines with a pass. Alongside Paul Pogba, who would surge forward in his typically innovative way, he would play the simple pass forward, and with perfect precision – without fail.
All talk before his arrival revolved around how Matic’s steel would get the best out of the Frenchman, but make no mistake: these two can attack together in perfect symbiosis, and the early signs are overwhelmingly positive.