Rangnick praises Matic's impact off the bench against Atletico

Anthony Elanga has been in the headlines after his equaliser to earn a result for Manchester United against Atletico Madrid in midweek.

Elanga came off the bench to keep United very much alive in the tie and grab a draw and he was one of five changes Ralf Rangnick made on the night.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference ahead of the Premier League clash with Watford, Rangnick namechecked Nemanja Matic as another player who impressed him in midweek.

Matic came on in place of Paul Pogba, anchoring the midfield and allowing Fred to push further up and press the hosts.

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Rangnick was asked if he was aware of the song the United fans have been singing about Elanga and replied: “Yes, I know, and of course, everybody could hear them singing that song, ‘Rhythm is a Dancer’. Yes, I know that song. It’s nice for the boy and it shows how creative our supporters are.

“But I also must say, although the headlines were quite logically in (Elanga’s) favour, it was not only him. I think in the second half, we changed the momentum, we regrouped, the whole team. It was not only him but also the other players and other subs, including Nemanja Matic who helped to change the game.

“In the first half, as I said, we were just too cautious in possession, too passive, too static when we were in possession of the ball and we made it in those first 45 minutes too easy for Atletico to always try to put pressure on us and that’s why we had only a very few of those moments that we could challenge them at the back.

“This changed in the second half and that was one of the major reasons why we were able to equalise and, at the end, even with another five or 10 minutes to play we might have even won the game. In the end, it was about the result. The result was good, I think leaves us all the chance in the world to proceed to the next round.”

Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

Matic is not necessarily a great fit for the high tempo style of play Rangnick demands of his players given his aging legs and preference to sit deeper.

The Serbian always seems to drop in between the centre-halves, which allows him to get on the ball more easily, although it does vacate the midfield area somewhat.

It had the effect Rangnick was looking for in midweek and it was clear that the German wanted to praise the midfielder, who is currently on the fringes of the squad.

It remains to be seen whether Rangnick rewards Matic with a start against Watford with Scott McTominay still out ill and unable to even train yet.

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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.