Matic's supreme showing vs. former club leads Man United past Benfica
Manchester United never truly went beyond third gear against Benfica, but that was easily enough to prevail 2-0 against Benfica. They overcame a penalty miss by Anthony Martial and some uneven passing to win comfortably, and claim four wins from four in their UEFA Champions League group. Far sterner tests lie ahead for them, but for now they are relishing their return to this competition.
Nemanja Matic was supreme in midfield, Scott McTominay passed and moved with the assurance and positional sense of a young Darren Fletcher, and David De Gea was typically brilliant when the game was still close.
United again struggled with the cohesiveness of their passing, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan again failed to make a lasting impression, in which he was joined by Juan Mata.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Jose Mourinho did exactly what was needed, making strong changes when necessary -- for example, introducing Marcus Rashford as a substitute -- and giving McTominay a chance to excel.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK David De Gea, 8 -- Made three excellent saves when the game was close, maintaining his concentration impressively throughout. Also distributed the ball well.
DF Matteo Darmian, 6 -- A reasonable showing. Was not under the greatest pressure and could arguably have got forward to better effect, and once or twice looked uncomfortable at the back. Mostly reliable though.
DF Chris Smalling, 6 -- Made heavy weather of some situations that looked fairly straightforward, but his passing was mostly sound throughout.
DF Eric Bailly, 7 -- Apart from one striking aberration in the second half, he was very good, his anticipation sharp -- one interception in particular was excellent -- and his passing was prompt and precise.
DF Daley Blind, 7 -- An emphatic penalty from him sealed this game, and he was competent otherwise if not outstanding. His passing was fairly good though not as penetrative as it could have been from a player of his gifts.
MF Nemanja Matic, 9 -- Majestic. Against one of his former clubs, he was simply on a different level. Whenever he received possession, the game became calm. Passed the ball superbly all night, controlled the tempo in midfield and broke the deadlock with a drive of fury and accuracy that cannoned off the goalkeeper into the net. Excellent again.
MF Scott McTominay, 8 -- A fine showing, where he did not merely look for the simple pass -- though there was plenty of that, and commendably so -- but also looked to push his team forward whenever possible. A performance of which a young Fletcher could well have been proud.
MF Juan Mata, 7 -- Plenty of industry -- in the first half, only Jesse Lingard ran more than him -- but his work ethic was some way in excess of his incisiveness. Was unable to break down Benfica with his usual flurry of quick, short passing.
MF Jesse Lingard, 6 -- Like Mata, his toil was not matched by his impact, and he was withdrawn at half-time. Disappointing that the two hardest-working players on the pitch produced so little, which is perhaps a criticism of the tactics as well as their individual performances.
MF Anthony Martial, 7 -- Difficult to judge his performance considering some of his footwork was bewildering but he then spoiled the progress he made by a poor final ball or by rushing his attempts. His speed and skill worried Benfica but an elite forward, which Martial is at his best, would have been more ruthless.
FW Romelu Lukaku, 7 -- A strong performance apart from when he had his one clear chance, put through in the second half. Again dropped deep and wide to link the play, combining intelligently with his supporting midfielders.
MF Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 5 (for Lingard, 46) -- A disappointing introduction, where he lost possession too easily -- an alarming trait of late -- and did not get into the rhythm of the game.
MF Ander Herrera, 7 (for Mata, 67) -- Added greater defensive strength to midfield, but maintained the sharpness of Mata's passing.
MF Marcus Rashford (for Martial, 75) -- A magnificent run with the ball at his feet led to Blind's penalty. A typically decisive outing from the birthday boy.
Musa Okwonga is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow on Twitter: @Okwonga.