If your club needed any more reason to pursue Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey in the summer, have a brief skim over the Ghanaian's showing at Anfield on Wednesday night. Treat yourself.
In short, it was a special performance.
During one of Liverpool's finest displays of the season - in which they sustained attacks superbly to suffocate a resolute Atleti backline - Thomas remained as cool as ever against a midfield that looked a little more dynamic than usual.
Playing as part of a central midfield two in Diego Simeone's 4-4-2, which looked more like a 5-5-0 by the end of the night, Thomas shone defensively throughout. So often he was there to collect the all-important second ball in the first half - registering 12 recoveries in total - before coolly distributing to an Atleti defender. His impressive ability in one-on-one situations was also on full display - finishing the game with a joint-high five tackles.
His knack for anticipating his opponent's actions on the pitch proved pivotal as well as he ended the 120-minute contest with the second-most interceptions (four). While the Reds were able to sustain relentless pressure on Los Rojiblancos for much of the game, the 26-year-old's ability to sniff out danger on occasions provided his side with much needed physical and mental breaks. He screened the back four expertly.
The Atleti man is no old school defensive midfielder, mind; he defines the modern-day iteration of the position.
The game situation ensured that Thomas could only show glimpses of his talent in possession - Joao Felix's 79.2% pass completion led all Atleti
Thomas' impressive ability to break lines with vertical passes was certainly prominent in the 1-0 victory in the first-leg while his nimble nature in close spaces proved more crucial in providing his side with a little bit of respite in this one.
In what was a frenetic, enthralling Champions League
For a player who has a reported £42m release clause in his current contract at Wanda Metropolitano, a whole host of clubs should be biting Atleti's hand off to secure a player of Thomas' calibre in the summer for that price.
And one of them is Manchester United.
With Fred still acclimatising and Nemanja Matic seemingly disinterested, United's midfield was a real problem area in the first half of the season, despite the impressive start to the campaign made by Scott 'marathon runner' McTominay.
But amid the Red Devils' current ten game unbeaten run, the midfield has proved pivotal in their success.
With McTominay only just returning from injury, Fred and Matic have conjured up a relationship similar to the Serb's partnership with N'Golo Kante at Chelsea
Matic was particularly impressive in the recent derby win over Manchester City
But while the 31-year-old has been rejuvenated as of late, you can only feel that the Red Devils need to acquire a player of Thomas' ilk to see them return to the very top in the coming years.
There's little doubting that the Atleti star would be a significant upgrade over the Serb and although he's got accustomed to playing in a midfield two under Simeone, his mobility, ability to screen the defence and comfort in possession means the Ghanaian is built to thrive in a single pivot - allowing United to play a midfield three with Fred and McTominay as the two box-to-box eights.
That's a midfield triumvirate that not only provides great balance and ample defensive support, but it would also help turn United into a counter-pressing machine.
Since his emergence into the Atleti side in 2017, Thomas' impressive man-marking skills and ability to read the game have helped turn Los Rojiblancos into an intense, coherent unit out of possession - one based around a man-oriented press. In possession, the Ghanaian's press resistance would certainly help United's build-up in central areas while his verticality and the ease at which he breaks opposing lines would be beneficial for the likes of Bruno Fernandes in higher zones on the pitch - Thomas averages 6.62 passes into the final third per 90 minutes in La Liga this season.
And if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - if he's still at the wheel, of course - continues to opt for an approach similar to the one we've seen in 'big' games against Liverpool and City this season - a deep 5-2-1-2 - Thomas wouldn't have any trouble playing Matic's role in that system.
There are signs of United
But if Ed Woodward and co really want fans to think they're heading in the right direction, adding a player like Partey in the summer would undoubtedly do that. The 26-year-old is just what United need and he's proven it against the very best...twice.
Your move, Woodward.
Source : 90min