United need another heroic performance from Nemanja Matic

There’s every chance that Nemanja Matic would not still be a Manchester United player were it not for midfield injuries suffered by Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba around the festive period.

Matic had been frozen out by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but circumstances handed him a red reprieve and he has grabbed it with both hands.

That has included outstanding performances in both Manchester derbies of 2020 so far and Solskjaer needs another when Pep Guardiola brings his side to Old Trafford this weekend.

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Matic’s derby heroics

Matic was left out of the United side which hosted City in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final in January and the Reds were 3-0 down by half time.

The Serbian was introduced at half time to try and claw back some dignity and shone as United pulled a goal back in the second period.

That gave United a puncher’s chance for the second leg, in which Matic scored the only goal on the night.

Solskjaer’s side ultimately couldn’t get the job done – and Matic’s harsh red card played a part.

But Matic proved himself capable of making an impact against City and Solskjaer will need that again this weekend.

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Matic’s midweek rest

Matic was not involved as United saw off Derby 3-0 in midweek, with Solskjaer perhaps eyeing a key role for him again this weekend.

Having a rested, fully fit Matic ready to stifle City is key for Solskjaer, and he needs more heroics from the Serbian this weekend. He’s been playing like the player United spent £40 million to sign.

Scott McTominay’s return is crucial but he has started three games in a row since his return from injury and Matic’s superior experience could be crucial.

Another winning goal wouldn’t go amiss but Solskjaer would settle for a physical, disciplined performance which keeps City subdued.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.