The veterans are finally stepping up for Manchester United, and it could not have been better timed.

Juan Mata scored the winner for United in the second half, choosing a great time to score his first goal of the season.

But it was Nemanja Matic once again who helped shield United’s defence and was key to yet another clean sheet.

The Serbian looked to have no future at United and was even a candidate to be sold in January.

Then December injuries to Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba changed everything.

(Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Protection

Since starting in United’s away win over Burnley, Matic has played an important role.

With the exception of the Arsenal game, United have kept clean sheets now in the two matches with Wolves he has played, and the win over Norwich.

 

There are other factors too. Brandon Williams is terrific at left-back. Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelöf are finding form as a partnership, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka is as consistent as ever.

But Matic is making their jobs easier, with his effective play, smart positioning, and risk free football.

He made two interceptions against Wolves, won two aerial duels, and made 98 touches. He was calm in possession, completed 89 per cent of his passes.

Wolves have a talented midfield, but Matic held keep Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho from taking the game over. Fred deserves credit too, he made a team high four tackles.

Matic will have it tougher away at Liverpool on Sunday. But he is a must start. Against Wolves he was crucial to United’s win.

Praise for Matic

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