Nemanja Matic’s importance to Manchester United has grown over the past two months.

He has played a key role in United’s run of clean sheets, offering protection to an improving defence.

Against Watford he helped United to another shutout. He made three tackles, three interception and three clearances. He also showcased a rarely seen offensive side of his game.

Matic made five key passes in the win over Watford, more than any player on the pitch.

This was more than Bruno Fernandes (4) and Mason Greenwood (3) managed.

RONALDO NEEDS TO STOP WHINING.

And for further context, Matic’s five key passes was the same number as Watford’s entire team combined.

(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Sending a message?

Matic’s performance showed his confidence, and it also demonstrated the effect Fernandes has had on the midfield too.

Fernandes has added a new attacking danger to United’s game which puts opponents on the backfoot and the team are able to move the ball quicker.

This gives players like Matic more time on the ball and more freedom, and he is able to pick passes out and try and launch attacks from deep.

He did this last season during United’s initial spell of winning form under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Matic showed off his rangy passing as part of a three man midfield with Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera.

Fast forward a year and Matic is still here, thriving as part of United’s most balanced midfield trio since with Fred and Fernandes.

Scott McTominay’s return gives United an extra option, but this was a display from Matic which said he is not ready to be moved aside, and has more to offer simply than stifling opponents.

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