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Ivan Perisic sends message to Manchester United fans

Man Utd fans will have been impressed with Ivan Perisic's performance for Croatia vs England a year after he was a transfer target

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Ivan Perisic sends message to Manchester United fans

Man Utd fans will have been impressed with Ivan Perisic's performance for Croatia vs England a year after he was a transfer target

12 July 2018 Thursday 18:55
Ivan Perisic sends message to Manchester United fans

England's heartbreaking defeat to Croatia will have been the first time a number of United fans laid eyes on Ivan Perisic on terrestrial television. Certainly against a Premier League backline.

And the Inter Milan winger, who was such an unpopular target last summer, proved a few of them wrong as he rose to the occasion in Moscow.

For 68 minutes, there was not a lot to shout about but, like the most effective players do, he stepped up and made two big contributions - a goal and a match-winning assist in extra time.

Among those watching on with a rueful smile was Jose Mourinho, who was desperate to sign Perisic last summer. Summing up his performance, as a pundit for Russia Today, the United boss essentially revealed how Perisic would have fitted into his side.

Perisic and Young could have been club team-mates.

"Perisic is the kind of winger that is different to the others," he said. "Normally you look at wingers and they are just fast and creative. "But he is also physical, very physical. Fantastic in the air

"So the way he wins that ball in the air [for Mandzukic’s goal] and puts the ball into that space is only possible if you are very, very physical and dominant over defenders. So he was amazing by going there and winning that ball in the air."

On the surface, the last thing United needed a year ago was another player who could play on the wing. Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and one Henrikh Mkhitaryan were all on their books.

But Perisic offered that something different that Mourinho alluded to. A tenacious, direct, hard-working player whose best asset is his crossing - something United have still got issues with on the flanks.

Mourinho is not necessarily one for numbers but even he will have been impressed by the 197 crosses Perisic swung in from open play for Inter in 2016-17. No other player in Serie A completed as many.

Following the signing of Romelu Lukaku, that kind of service was needed. Indeed, it is not difficult to imagine Lukaku bettering the six headed goals he managed last season with Perisic in the team.

The groundwork for the deal had been done. Perisic, who speaks English, had been planning for life in Manchester as early as June last year and 'appreciated' and 'enjoyed' the work of Mourinho.

As always, the United boss had sought a second opinion from a number of confidantes and even met up with friends Predrag Mijatovic and Davor Suker in Zagreb.

Mourinho would have quickly learnt about Perisic's extrovert personality, that warrior-like mentality he values, and how popular he was with his team-mates as a lover of the trick-taking card game Tressette.

United's hierarchy, though, were not so sure and were some way apart from Inter's valuation of Perisic. Moves for Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic and Lukaku were instead prioritised.

Perisic, who turned 29 in February, was surely about to slow down at a time when the club had two of the most exciting forwards in Europe. Indeed, the very public pursuit certainly had an influence on Martial's and Rashford's brilliant start to the season.

By then, United fans were wondering just why Mourinho wanted Perisic, who ended up signing a new five-year deal at Inter and enjoying the best season of his career. They may now know.

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