Opinion: Joel Matip’s excellent showing vs Man United symptomatic of transformation

Joel Matip is rapidly changing perceptions at Liverpool following a fine run of form.

The Cameroon international was once written off as a donkey, a player who could hardly balance on his on two feet, a defensive liability Jurgen Klopp ought to get rid of.

An injury to Joe Gomez, however, appears to have changed perceptions on Merseyside. The once ritually lambasted defender has stepped into the 21-year-old’s position and shone in his absence.

His latest showing against Manchester United provided yet another example of how much he has improved this season, and it’s about time that he was placed in a bracket alongside Andrew Robertson as one of the biggest Liverpool bargains in recent memory.

Granted, Matip’s task was made easier by Marcus Rashford’s lack of mobility and his afternoon would have looked altogether different had the England international been fully fit.

However, Matip was defensively solid in a multitude of different situations: he was dominant in aerial battles, winning four during the match, and he supplemented his ability to read the game with a willingness to step forward into United’s half by completing two dribbles.

All of Liverpool’s defenders are forced to accept the reality that they will live in Virgil Van Dijk’s shadow for as long as he remains at the club.

But, despite being signed for a fraction of the price, Andrew Robertson is not far behind Van Dijk and, considering Matip was signed on a free transfer, it’s fair to say he was a bargain on par with the Scotland international.

That’s an opinion which would not have been entertained at the beginning of the season, but a string of solid performances culminating at Old Trafford suggest that he should be held in the same bracket as Robertson in terms of value for money signings.