Why Matic is an unsung hero for resurgent Reds
Nemanja Matic is the sort of player who can sometimes go under the radar but the stats back up how influential he has been to the Manchester United cause.
The 31-year-old brings an air of calm experience to the side and he performed at a consistently high level after winning his place back in the side in December.
If some of his work is unheralded, such as shielding the defence, providing protection and an option in possession, keeping the ball with his upper body strength and displaying his ability in tight areas, his strike at Manchester City was enough to give us one of our derby wins and finally earned a degree of attention. Unfortunately, even this was overshadowed somewhat as it proved in vain with the Blues still winning on aggregate 3-2 and the midfielder was sent off for a second yellow card.
A look at United's results since the 4-0 win against AZ Alkmaar, his previous appearance had been in October against the same opposition, when we kept a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw, hint at Matic's importance to the side.
The Reds had 11 shut-outs in his 16 outings and even this impressive record deserves a little more scrutiny, as he only came on at half-time in the first-leg cup defeat to City, with the score at 0-3, and was crucial in helping to steady the ship as the Reds reduced the arrears and kept things alive for the second leg.
In the last 10 games he has started, we've scored 17 times and conceded only six goals.
So it is no wonder the club has exercised the option to extend his contract, due to expire in the summer, for another year, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer recently suggested.
Matic is also capable of starting attacks in the opposition half and keeping the ball moving. In our last Premier League fixture, the derby victory, he made more passes in City territory than any of his colleagues (22) and was a vital cog on a special day at Old Trafford.
Despite being known for his ability to sit in front of the defence and provide cover, he ran the furthest distance of all United players in the 1-1 draw at Everton this month, despite having the energetic Fred and Bruno Fernandes alongside him.
He also topped this chart, compiled by Opta, in the 3-0 success against Watford in February, and was joint-highest in terms of passes in the opposition half (with Bruno), to suggest there is more than meets the eye to his play.
It is clear that Solskjaer and Matic's colleagues greatly appreciate the contribution of somebody who has become an important member of the side.
Whenever football resumes, he will be determined to maintain this level of form and influence and should be a key performer as the Reds continue to gel under the boss and achieve our aims.
The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.
Reading this in our app? If not, you might miss some exclusive features not found on ManUtd.com. Download the Official App here.