|Nemanja Matic says he turned his Man Utd career around by earning Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s trust
[Image Courtesy of Sky Sports]
The Revival of Nemanja Matic
Nemanja Matic had a dismal start to the 19/20 season, featuring in just two league games by the start of October last year and had become an increasingly frustrating figure at The Theatre of Dreams as he seemed to be unable to adapt to Solskjaer’s fast-paced football, often being caught out pondering over the right pass. Further agonizing the issue, he was ruled out for 3 months from October 2019 to December 2019. He was often criticized for slowing down the tempo of the game and breaking the flow of the counter-attacking football we were playing prior to the arrival of our Portuguese Magnifico, Bruno Fernandes. Matic looked set to leave Old Trafford with the winter transfer window approaching and United were looking to move on the veteran as well. Unconventionally but fortunately for Matic and us, Scott McTominay, who was having a stellar first full season at United suffered an injury, sidelining him for 2 months, opening the door to the first-team for Matic. Our Serbian Commander did justice to the opportunity gifted to him by reviving his Man Utd career, and since, has become a key figure in the First XI, dictating the play in midfield and shielding the back four. Nemanja Matic was rewarded with a 3-year contract extension for his impressive performances but, even though he has shown no signs of regression at 31, we need to find a long-term replacement for him. Let’s look at some options to replace Matic…
1. Scott McTominay
McTominay had a stellar first full season at Old Trafford and has become a fan-favorite, showing the desire to give everything for the badge. He looks set to be one of the mainstays at Manchester United for the coming years and to some United fans, even a contender for captaincy. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury on Boxing Day sidelining him for 2 months, stagnating his development. Scott McTominay has shown immense maturity since stepping into the first team and looked to form a formidable partnership with a much-improved Fred in United’s engine room. He’s a great ball-winner, has the tendency to make good forward runs and a knack of scoring goals. He’s vocal and a leader on the pitch and doesn’t shy to have a word with his senior players. McTominay has all the attributes to replace Matic, but one. He likes to move forward and get involved in the attack rather than sitting back and shielding the back four, or being that calming presence like Matic. He’s really a box-to-box midfielder and forcing him in a CDM role won’t get the best out of him. But he definitely is a contender for the job as he can watch and learn the role from the maestro himself, Nemanja Matic.
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Scott McTominay celebrates after scoring a screamer in the Manchester Derby in front of the
Fred had a very disappointing start to life at Old Trafford with many fans dismissing him and blaming United for spending too much on him. But it’s safe to say that Fred has proved all his doubters wrong this season. The Brazilian is one of the most improved players this season and has been a massive performer for Manchester United. He has been consistently putting in good performances and has improved his ball distribution, awareness, recovery, and moreover looks like a much better player now. Even though he has found getting into the first team difficult since the restart with Pogba fit and Matic proving his importance, he has shown the ability to slot in whenever required, providing a lot of energy in the midfield. Of course, he may not be the safest person for the CDM role with that unreliable first-touch but that is something he can work upon before the start of the next season. At 27, Fred should be at the peak of his powers and a strong contender for Matic’s spot. He has shown us that can have the discipline to stay back, shield the back four, and distribute the ball, but of course, there’s still much work to be done. A double-pivot suits him more though, as was evident in his partnership with McTominay earlier this season.
|A much-improved Fred
[Image Courtesy of Sky Sports]
3. James Garner
Manchester United are finally starting to produce amass from the famous Carrington conveyor belt that once boasted of greats from the Class of 92′. The Manchester United Academy has become a breeding ground for young players and we’re increasingly giving more importance and opportunities to youth prospects, and with Solskjaer at the helm, the academy players now have a great chance to impress the gaffer and compete to get into the senior team. We’ve seen many graduates outperform our expectations – Rashford, Pogba, Greenwood, McTominay, and Williams to name a few. James Garner could possibly end up in that bracket as well, as he certainly has the potential to do so. Garner has 6 appearances for the senior team to date which have come in FA Cup and Europa League ties, but he needs much more game time than that to be able to establish himself in the team and make a spot for himself. Touted as the next Michael Carrick, Garner is calm, composed and intelligent in his distribution, someone who seems perfect for the job. What he lacks is a vast experience of first-team football which could lead to errors on the field while playing such high-intensity football and that could demotivate a player. A loan move to the Championship is what he should be looking for right now as United’s midfield is stacked up right now with Pogba, Matic, Fred, and McTominay all fighting for 2 spots. Reports coming in state that he’s likely to join Bournemouth on a 1-year loan.
|James Garner could find himself on loan in the Championship next season
[Image Courtesy of Manchester Evening News]
4. Donny van de Beek
Donny van de Beek is one of the most highly-rated young midfielders in Europe and can slot in at any position in a midfield three. He can play as a #10, he can play box-to-box, and as a holding midfielder as well. Van de Beek is the complete package and should be the signing of the summer for any club. Very intelligent in his distribution, great vision, calm and composed on the field, and the experience of playing at the highest level in European football, the 23-year old has every attribute to be a great player at United. The versatile Dutch midfielder would be a great addition to the squad and would vastly improve our squad depth, helping us rotate our players without a steep drop-off in quality. He comes off a successful Eredivise campaign with a return of 8 goals and 5 assists in the league, and 10 goals and 11 assists in the whole season. At 23, he seems to be tick every box in Ole’s transfer policy. Ajax presents a golden opportunity for Ed Woodward, Matt Judge, and The Glazers to make amends in a transfer window where we’ve been miserably left behind by our rivals so far who continue to strengthen their squads. Priced at around £40 million, Donny van de Beek is a STEAL.
|The key to our midfield?
[Stats Courtesy of WhoScored.com]
5. Declan Rice
Declan Rice has really shone in what has been a dismal season for West Ham United, as the appointment of former Everton and Manchester United manager, David Moyes after sacking Manuel Pellegrini didn’t bear the expected results. But The Hammers did at least stay up in the Premier League to fight another day, and Rice was a key reason behind it. Rice has been doing a massive job for West Ham. He cleans up in front of the defence, doesn’t mind going in for a tackle, can drive forward with the ball from deep positions, has good ball distribution, and a knack to take cracking shots at goal from range. The 21-year old Englishman came in from the youth ranks of Chelsea and has gone on to become a mainstay at the London Stadium and has been making people consider him among the best CDMs in the league. Premier League-proven and a solid, consistent performer, Rice no doubt would be a more than capable signing to replace Matic, given he can take the step-up from West Ham to Man Utd. The only problem with him is his hyper-inflated price tag, as is the case with almost every up and coming English youngster. The East London club reportedly want fees in the region of £80 million, and I personally don’t think we should pay anything upwards of £50 million for him. No doubt he’s a great talent and could potentially be a great signing, but I don’t think we should be held out to ransom for a 21-yr old English player plying his trade at West Ham.
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[Image Courtesy of Football Insider]
Ndidi is one of the best holding midfielders in the Premier League right now, if not the best. He has been in the list of Top 3 Tacklers in PL since the last 3 seasons. Defensively solid, Ndidi may not the fastest players on the pitch, but his reading of the game is immaculate. He’s an expert at breaking up play and moving the ball to his more attacking teammates. Sounds too much like Matic? Well, that’s what a replacement is. Though, The Foxes won’t let go of one of their stars so easily and would be holding out for at least £80 million. To be honest, I’d actually say he’s worth that kind of money but at the moment United don’t seem to be able to afford him as they’re focusing a major chunk of their transfer budget on Jadon Sancho, hence leaving a limited amount of money for the remaining positions that need strengthening.
The Atletico Madrid defensive midfielder has been strongly linked with the Gunners for a fee in the region of £45 million, and definitely should be a good signing for them at that price. The 27-yr old should be at the peak of his powers, which already boast a naturally-gifted ability to play as a CDM. United could possibly go in for him but our negotiators don’t really seem to be able to help us compete to sign players who are wanted by other clubs as well.
With Chelsea’s transfer policy of not giving contract extensions to players above 30, United could line up a bid for N’Golo Kante, who just turned 29 this year, as reportedly he’s on the list of players Chelsea have made available for sale this summer. Kante is one of the best CDMs in the PL and he would be a wonderful signing for us. The problem is, he’s not a long-term solution to Matic’s position as he’s just 2 years younger to him. Moreover, Kante would definitely want to be in the playing XI and we just offered Matic a contract extension. Plus, Chelsea would try to get as much money as possible and would refrain from selling such a prized asset to a direct rival and strengthen them. So I don’t see this happening.
Who would you want as Matic’s Heir?Leave your thoughts in the comments.