Matic Makes Manchester United Debut in Win over Sampdoria
Nemanja Matic’s Manchester United debut was a winning one, and the Serb left the field following the 2-1 victory over Sampdoria in Dublin with praise from his manager Jose Mourinho ringing in his ears.
Matic sealed his move from Chelsea at the start of this week and is behind the rest of the United squad in terms of sharpness, after spending the previous couple of weeks training alone.
If he was rusty, you would not have known it as he slotted into the holding-midfielder role in seamless fashion. Mourinho sent his team out in a 3-4-2-1 formation, and it’s likely to be the go-to option for the Portuguese in the season ahead.
It was far from the Portuguese’s first choice starting XI, but Matic was in the same side as Paul Pogba and how they gel will be key for the Red Devils. It wasn’t a spectacular start from the pair, but Matic did the simple things well – which is what he’s been bought to do – and his opening 45 minutes in United colours drew praise from Mourinho.
“The way he plays, he uses his brain but of course he needs physicality to be on top of his game,” Mourinho said, per Manchester United’s official website. “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.”
For all the positives of the 2-1 win, which came courtesy of goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata, there were still wrinkles to iron out.
The back three Mourinho deployed of Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling and Daley Blind did not always look in tune – and they almost gifted Sampdoria a lead when an errant backpass from Blind forced goalkeeper David De Gea to take urgent action and concede a free-kick near his own goalline.
United smothered the play on their own line and turned defence into attack at a rapid rate, with Matteo Darmian playing in Mkhitaryan for the opener on nine minutes.
United looked comfortable for the remainder of the first half, but Mourinho made a string of changes at the start of the second half and it upset their flow. The Italians seized their chance with Dennis Praet levelling the scores on 63 minutes.
Sampdoria made changes of their own as the second half wore on, and it was United who capitalised nine minutes from time – with Mata stroking home a pass from Anthony Martial.
United will head back to Manchester to put the finishing touches to their preparations, ahead of next week’s European Super Cup clash with Real Madrid. There won’t be the string of substitutions seen in pre-season friendlies, and it will be barometer of where the Red Devils are at in the European pecking order.
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