Matic takes centre stage as Reds sink Sampdoria
Manchester United 2 Sampdoria 1
Nemanja Matic started Manchester United's final pre-season warm-up match at a packed Aviva Stadium last night and helped his new team to victory again st Sampdoria.
Matic, who missed only five games across Chelsea's title-winning seasons in 2014-15 and 2016-17, was left out of their pre-season tour and had been training largely alone.
Since completing his move to United last Monday, he has had only one training session, but you would barely have known.
The Serb immediately took centre stage in front of a three-man defence and was soon both dictating the tempo and assuming his usual policeman-like responsibilities.
Most important of all, there were clear signs that his presence will liberate more creative players.
While Matic barely lost possession, there was still a sloppy and almost costly start from Daley Blind. He did not properly check on the positioning of David de Gea before delivering a back-pass that required the Spain goalkeeper to scramble back into his goal-mouth and claw the ball to safety.
It meant conceding a free-kick on the edge of the six-yard box for handling a back-pass but, in blocking the attempted shot, United's wall set up a counter-attack from which they took the lead. Matteo Darmian deserved credit for his cross on the left that was bundled in by Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Romelu Lukaku almost put United further ahead but, after cutting inside from the left, shot just outside a post.
Mkhitaryan also had a good chance to extend the lead but his header from Antonio Valencia's cross was directed straight as Sampdoria goalkeeper Christian Puggioni.
With the European Super Cup looming next Tuesday against Real Madrid, Jose Mourinho wanted to rotate his players and, with Matic off, United lost some of their rhythmafter the break.
Dennis Praet had equalised for Sampdoria, but Mata then delivered a brilliantly taken left-footed winner after running on to Anthony Martial's clever cross. (© Daily Telegraph, London.)