So, the World Cup is over.
Given the utter pointlessness of a fixture between the two losing semi-finalists, it is worth revisiting the football match that actually mattered – where national pride was on the line – and so was the opportunity to fight for the ultimate glory.
In the end, it was Croatia who – after trailing, courtesy of a stupendous free-kick five minutes into the match, from Tottenham Hotspur full-back Kieran Trippier – then regrouped, to find the equaliser through none other than 29-year old Ivan Perisic.
Perisic, who had been one of Croatia’s senior players and in good shape leading up to that moment, truly came into his own, on a day when his Croatian team would write themselves into the history books forever.
Also, it was somehow fitting that it all unfolded at the old Luzhniki Stadium where Manchester United were crowned Kings of Europe for the third time in their history in 2008, the Croat showed what the Red Devils were missing a decade on – to elevate them to the next level.
It is no secret that Jose Mourinho wanted to bring Perisic to Manchester United last summer given the club’s lack of genuine wide players who could consistently deliver good balls into the box with an unrelenting work ethic to maraud that left flank, come what may.
Perisic, quite obviously, ticks both boxes – but the one sticking point when it came to signing Perisic was his apparent lack of output in terms of goals and assists – which, to begin with, is not an entirely unreasonable concern, at face value.
But scratching the surface, the argument does not actually hold any real weight as the 29-year old’s contribution in each of the last two seasons at Inter Milan in Serie A has been significant to the side’s much-improved fortunes. More specific to his strengths, his Inter Milan outfit finished joint top with Champions Juventus for goals from set plays (19) and unsurprisingly Ivan Perisic had a hand in 4 of those, all through incisive deliveries from wide areas.
In this team that Mourinho has built, Manchester United’s aerial prowess is evident yet still largely remains dormant and untapped – with the side, given their height and strength all through their spine – only managing to come fifth in the league for goals scored from set pieces (14) in 2017/18, with Manchester City again – a noticeably nimbler group, topping the charts with 16 goals. Then the issue could only be with the source – or the lack thereof at United.
Having made the signings of Diogo Dalot – a young upstart at full-back and Fred from Shakthar to bolster the midfield – it’s time United looked at adding another dynamic to their eclectic bunch of individuals up front – from the eccentric Lingard, to the expressive Martial, the enigmatic Sanchez to the enthusiastic Rashford – United have got options. But not quite like the engine – that is Perisic – who would bring that innate Balkan mentality of refusing to give in – which will ultimately toughen up the dressing room.
If the semi-final against England was an audition for Perisic to join Manchester United – it was as good a display as he would have hoped. For Perisic, this would represent an opportunity of a lifetime, for a man who has journeyed across Europe with moderate success – a league title in Germany with Borussia Dortmund under Jurgen Klopp six years ago, remains his biggest team honour so far.
Yet that could all change come Sunday when his men take on favourites France in the World Cup final. There is no bigger stage in football, no greater pressure to win a football match than the one piece of silverware that rules them all.