Nemanja Matic crowned a combative midfield performance with a stunning late winner during Manchester United’s 3-2 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
The midfielder initially struggled to keep track of Alexander Sørloth, who played as a second striker off Christian Benteke, but started to impose himself in Palace’s half after Chris Smalling halved the deficit.
But his crowning moment was to come in the final seconds of the game when Paul Pogba’s shot rebounded in Matic’s direction and, from 30 yards out, he thundered a looping drive past Wayne Hennessey to give the visitors three vital points.
And the Serbian’s numbers from the game tell you that he did much more than just score a memorable first goal for Man United.
Matic’s game by numbers vs. Palace:
75% dribbles compley
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) March 5, 2018
It was Matic’s positioning throughout the game above anyone else that served as an accurate barometer for how the visitors were performing against Palace.
He was initially forced to act as a fifth defender, bewildered and dragged all over the pitch by Roy Hodsgon’s two strikers, before eventually creeping further forward as United reclaimed possession at the very least.
And then, with the scores level, he was basically alongside Paul Pogba in midfield, working hard to find the right pass through the lines.
Further forward he went. Almost to a shooting position, you might say. Surely not, Nemanja. Please no more shots into the stands, Nemanja, please.
What happened next will no doubt be remembered as one of this season’s best moments.
In hindsight, we should never doubt a man with a foot like a traction engine – a Premier League winner who produced a moment that took supporters back to the United of old.