United have announced that they have signed Nemanja Matic from Chelsea. Speculation has been on-going all summer regarding a suitable candidate for recruitment to a defensive midfield role at Old Trafford, a position widely considered critical to team development. Matic has been one of the names widely touted along with Monaco’s Fabinho and Tottenham Dier. Matic is a player Jose Mourinho knows well after having worked with the Serbian in his second spell as manager at Chelsea.
Matic will be 29 on the 1st of August and whilst many would have preferred a younger player United actually need someone who is ready now rather than someone who will grow into the role over the next few years. At 29 what you see is what you get and we can expect player in his prime with Premier League experience.
The defensive midfield need is pressing for two principle reasons. Firstly United have tried and failed to find an adequate successor to Michael Carrick for some time now; Schweinsteiger was always going to be a stop gap but struggled to adjust to the pace of the Premier League and Morgan Schneiderlin never seemed to fit. With Carrick turning 36 this summer there is no time to loose. The second reason for the urgency is that a reliable dominant defensive midfield has always been one of the most critical roles in any Jose Mourinho side, but in this instance such a player should free up others, most critically Paul Pogba, allowing them to focus more on the attacking side of their game.
Carrick, Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin
Matic played for several clubs in Slovakia and Serbia before signing for Chelsea at the age of 21 in 2009. He remained at Chelsea for two years but only made two senior appearances before being loaned out to Dutch side Vitesse for the 2010-11 season. He played 27 games in Holland before Chelsea decided to cash in on the player in the January 2011 transfer window selling him to Benfica in the deal that saw David Luiz arrive at Stamford Bridge.
It was in Portugal that he was converted to the defensive midfield role having played further forward in midfield earlier in his career. He won the Portuguese Cup in 2011-12 season and played enough games in the national Championship in 2013-14 to qualify for a winners’ medal despite re-joining Chelsea in the January 2013 transfer window. Since returning to Chelsea, where he linked up with Jose Mourinho he has won a clean sweep of domestic English honours including two Premier League titles, firstly with Jose in 2014-15 and again last season under Antonio Conte. Matic played 35 of Chelsea’s 38 League games last year forming a solid midfield partnership with N’golo Kante.
At 6ft 4 in Nemanja Matic is another big strong player to add to the United spine. He has a good first touch and a reasonably good range of passing. He is a neat and tidy player but he also has an accurate and powerful shot and United do need to increase the number of goals they score from the midfield. Goals aren’t really his thing though and perhaps he is considered a less dynamic player than some of the other names United have been linked with for this area of the team, but perhaps Jose doesn’t feel he needs dynamic in this area. Matic is an efficient screen to the defence who will break up the opposition attacks and move the ball on to others, he reads the game well and has good positional sense. Importantly for Jose he is a player who stick to the tactical plan. He is a current Serbian international with 32 caps.
So Nemanja Matic, welcome to Old Trafford.