Why didn’t Ole Gunnar Solskjaer just start Nemanja Matic in the first place?
Perhaps after playing twice already this year, he wanted to rest the Serbian. It was a big mistake.
United’s midfield was cut to ribbons by City in the first half and our defence was also found wanting.
Matic was brought on in the second half against City and changed the game, giving United more control.
He came on with United 3-0 down and Matic stemmed the bleeding.
Marcus Rashford scored a consolation goal which gives us a slim hope heading into the second leg.
Since Matic returned from injury in mid-December, he has re-established himself as a valuable player.
Injuries to Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay have thrust him into this scenario, but he has made the most of it.
Solskjaer took a gamble leaving him out of the starting line up and it was the wrong call.
A central defence of Phil Jones and Victor Lindelöf needed extra protection, and not less.
United really do not have many midfield alternatives, so it is fortunate Matic is playing so well.
He made four interceptions in 45 minutes, the joint highest number any United player managed across the 90.
He gave United control, calmness, and stopped the panic. Matic will be important at The Etihad if United are going to be successful in turning this tie around.
In the long-term, 31-year-old Matic does not have a future at United, but in the here and now, he is more important than ever.
Supporters appreciated his efforts – while rightly questioning why he didn’t start the game…
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