Man Utd Already Reaping the Rewards of Nemanja Matic Deal After Dublin Debut
Nemanja Matic has played just 45 minutes in a Manchester United shirt since joining the club from Chelsea earlier this week, but the Serbian's new team are already reaping the rewards of the deal after his 'debut' against Sampdoria on Wednesday showed what he brings to the table.
Fans were divided over Matic's arrival. He wasn't the exciting midfield signing that someone like Radja Nainggolan would have been, he is also significantly older than Fabinho or Eric Dier, and manager Jose Mourinho was criticised for what is perceived as a short-termist approach.
But after a single half of action a mere two days and one training session after signing on the dotted line, it is clear to see how Matic will impact United's performances this season.
The 29-year-old is not a fancy player. He's pragmatic and, unlike a forward or creative individual, the less one notices him in a game the better he's probably performing.
It is not for Matic to make lung-busting runs forward, carry the ball any kind of distance or even split defences with eye-of-the-needle passes. He sits, he intercepts or tackles, he lays it off and he controls the game in that way. And it was those characteristics that were on show in Dublin.
Deliberately removing your focus from the rest of the game to see what he does and it becomes clear the influence Matic has. In commentary for MUTV, ex-United defender and '99 treble winner David May waxed lyrical over the two-time Premier League champion's performance.
Post-game, Mourinho commented, "The way he plays, he uses his brain but of course he needs physicality to be on top of his game. So he needs time but his experience, intelligence and genius in the way he thinks about football will help him to be ready sooner rather than later.
"That's why he coped well with 45 minutes today. He makes everything so simple and is fantastic in his position."
His understated ability to sit deep, read the game and protect the defence gave those around him a platform on which to perform. It was said in the 48 hours after Matic signed and it was seen in the game itself, Paul Pogba will benefit immensely as he now has far greater freedom.
Speaking on his own performance to MUTV, Matic said, "I tried to give my best to control the game well, to give the balance, and I think, for the first game, it was good for me. Step by step, I think I will get better and better and I hope I will help the team to achieve something this season."
Matic was actually left out of Chelsea's pre-season programme this summer before his move, but he's determined to be fit enough to compete and give his best for United immediately.
"I will try to be 100 percent ready," he said of potential involvement in United's upcoming games against Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup next and the Premier League opener against West Ham.
"I will try hard, I hope that I will be an option for those games, but we will see. We still have six days but I'm sure that everybody is ready and I will try to be 100 percent ready, and I hope that we can do something for this club," he explained.