Chris Smalling hails Nemanja Matic’s impact at Manchester United

by Leo Nieboer

Chris Smalling has heaped praise on Nemanja Matic for the solidifying influence he has brought to Jose Mourinho‘s set-up since arriving from Chelsea.

The Serbian, having won two Premier League titles in three years, completed a £40m move to Manchester United earlier this month.

And he has already made a monumental impact, producing a truly commanding display on his Premier League debut in a Man United shirt against West Ham United on Sunday.

Speaking to the Metro, Smalling was quick to hail the 29-year-old for making such a seamless transition into life at Old Trafford.

“Obviously I’ve watched him from afar and been up against him for Chelsea. I always knew he was a good player but coming up close to him in training and how he’s performed with us, it’s gone to a whole new level of appreciation,” he said.

“I see him working, making play out and not only does he close down the ball but he’s spraying those passes as well so my appreciation for him has gone up a level.’

“I think his age helps and obviously he comes from a club in the Premier League so he’s not needed very long to settle in at all.”

Smalling, perhaps more than anyone, should be thankful for Matic’s arrival at the base of midfield. The Englishman lacked a defensive shield in front of him last season and often struggled to maintain a solid shape at the back, with the 2-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur back in May serving as a perfect example.

The Serbian’s presence is simply invaluable for centre backs. He sees fires before they’ve even started and mops up any iota of potential danger in one swift, effortless movement, giving those behind him a chance to remain compact.

You just have to look at how Chelsea’s centre backs got on last weekend to truly understand the stabilising influence brought by Matic: Gary Cahill only lasted 17 minutes and David Luiz ended up making Sam Vokes look like Ruud van Nistelrooy. There truly aren’t many players in the Premier League capable of setting the mood of an entire performance more emphatically than Matic.

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