An underwhelming performance away at Southampton seemed to underline what many Manchester United fans feared about Nemanja Matic. That he is way past his best.

Well, against Newcastle on Saturday, Matic went about proving people wrong.

Matic was probably an unpopular name in the line-up in comparison to the pleas for Donny van de Beek to start. But it did make some sense.

Matic is more of a typical defensive midfielder and with all the attacking talent on the pitch, United needed balance.

While Newcastle still posed a threat, they lacked a cutting edge, and Matic was able to largely steer United in the right direction.

Manchester United v Newcastle United - Premier League
(Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Partnership with Pogba resumed

Against Southampton, Matic played alongside Fred. In this game Matic was back alongside Pogba.

Matic’s best spells for United have come alongside Pogba in midfield, most recently in the post-lockdown run of fixtures at the end of 2019/20.

 

While Newcastle’s lack of quality has to be taken into account, Matic played well in Saturday’s fixture.

He showed that he can be, at minimum, a useful squad player for this team throughout the season.

Matic’s improved performance

Matic touched the ball 115 times against Newcastle. Only midfield partner Paul Pogba managed more, with 125.

He was careful with possession, completing 93 per cent of his passes, and he even created two goalscoring chances.

Manchester United v Newcastle United - Premier League
(Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Matic kept United’s attacks moving, and in the first half he did particularly well to chase down a lost ball and win a corner.

He also managed to win three tackles, a number bettered only by Aaron Wan-Bissaka (4).

Matic may not play every week in midfield, especially with Scott McTominay close to recovering from injury. But he showed today that he doesn’t have to be a liability when he does, instead he can actually be an asset for this team.

Have something to tell us about this article?