Nemanja Matic produced a powerful midfield display to ensure Manchester United controlled proceedings during their 1-0 win over Benfica in the Champions League.
The Serbian, paired with Ander Herrera in midfield, provided a desperately needed touch of class on the ball in an otherwise languid first half from the visitors.
And as Man United improved after the break and took the lead with 25 minutes left, Matic ensured that Benfica never really generated any late momentum.
The 29-year-old’s numbers from the game shed light on just how commanding he was from start to finish in Lisbon.
Matic's game by numbers vs. Benfica:
4/4 tackles won
77 passes completed
91% pass accuracy
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) October 18, 2017
A trend is starting to emerge with Matic.
When United find themselves in a spot of bother, lacking innovation in midfield and seemingly going backwards in a game, it is indeed the Serbian who comes to the rescue with a series of smart, alleviating moments on the ball.
The second half against Everton last month, with United just 1-0 up, serves as an important example. He did the same at Anfield when Mohamed Salah started to look likely and the home crowd began to pipe up.
This is what we mean by a controller: somebody capable of changing the mood of a game in midfield with little more than a slice of composure – a sense of calm and assurance, manifested perhaps by a slick turn out of trouble followed by a perfectly weighted pass, that permeates those around him.
Needless to say, Mourinho simply cannot see him join Paul Pogba on the injury table.