Nemanja Matic - Finished or Out of form?

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Image source: Daily Express
      In the summer of 2017, when Manchester United finalized the signing of Matic from Chelsea for £40m the fans were not pleased to say the least. How did Manchester United go from links to Bakayoko and Fabinho to Matic? It felt like Chelsea were giving us their scraps again after they realised how good N'golo Kante is. But everyone unanimously did agree that it was better than signing Eric Dier.

   However, we knew that we needed a defensive midfielder as a Michael Carrick's replacement. Carrick, Herrera, and Pogba made an amazing midfield trio for us in the 2016/17 season but Carrick announced his retirement beforehand. After signing Matic it made sense as to why we ditched all the younger defensive midfield options and went for a 29 year old. While replacing a player like Carrick, we can't just sign someone with his skill set. The signing had to account for experience as well.

     That season was a stellar one for Matic. He was the standout player and the first name on the team sheet after David De Gea. He made the role his own as he slotted in perfectly at defensive midfield and racked up stats and numbers effortlessly. His sensational goal against Palace just endeared him to the fans even more. Overall, he was an important part of our squad last season and provided a great cover to prevent our poor backline from getting exposed.

    Fast forward to now and every United fan is calling for Matic to be dropped. The Serb has been sloppy, missing 5 yard passes, slowing down build up massively, and just looking tired in general. This Matic performance reminds me of two things.

     First, Carrick in 2015/16. It was Van Gaal's last season and things were horrible to say the least. Boring, sideways football was putting people to sleep at Old Trafford and Manchester United Football Club had become an eyesore. Carrick was one of the poorest players and was at fault for quite a few of the goals. But being a long time servant and potentially it being his last season before retirement, he was given relatively easier treatment by the fans. However, when he chose to sign a contract extension the reception was not good at all. Carrick then went on to give an amazing  individual performance in the 2016/17 season under Mourinho.

     Second, Matic in 2015/16. Chelsea were lingering around 10th position during Mourinho's last season. I remember watching Matic that season and thinking what happened to him. Only last season he was the trump card in Chelsea's title victory. In the following season, Chelsea won the league with  new signing N'golo Kante and Matic in midfield with Antonio Conte on the touchline.

      This makes me feel that a defensive midfielder is only as good as the team is. They are not goalscorers or centre backs who can directly turn the game on its head. I don't want us to sell Matic, on the other hand we should be in the market for a young defensive midfielder who should alternate with Matic next season so that the pressure is lesser both on the younger and older player. Here are a few defensive midfield options whom we should definitely look at during the summer or winter transfer windows, for that matter. 

1.) Frenkie De Jong (Age: 21; Contract till: 30/06/2022)

While it looks like he might be on his way to PSG, we should pursue him for sure. De Jong, along with De Ligt are not ordinary young prospects. Their approach to the game is very mature and both are very solid footballers. These are the type of signings that Manchester United should be making with a clear plan of the future. De Jong should cost around £60m, unless Ajax decides to play hardball.

2.) Adrien Rabiot (Age: 23; Contract until: 30/06/2019)

Andrien Rabiot is a young, tall, midfielder who can play both central midfield and defensive midfield. He plays for PSG and is out of contract next summer which means we could get him for free. There were talks of Liverpool being interested in him, but after acquiring Fabinho, they shouldn't be that keen on Rabiot.

3.) Tanguy Ndombele (Age: 21; Contract until: 30/06/2023)

This one seems a little unlikely as he just signed a new contract at Lyon. That could either mean that the French club want a huge amount for him or just don't want to part with him. Either way we should be in the market for such players. Woodward should do the only thing he is good at and try some smooth negotiation tactic or tweak something in Memphis' contract to bring down Ndombele's asking price.

Anyway, that was my take on the entire situation. The motivation to write this was the constant negativity and abuse hurled at Nemanja Matic. Being quick to judge, I'm worried the United fans will not give him a chance to improve from this slump. I hope he does find his feet for two reasons - to prove his critics wrong, and so that he just doesn't get dropped! It's tough for a team when the pivotal player in midfield is just a passenger. So that's all for this time, until next time... GGMU! 


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