On Tuesday, it was announced that Manchester United’s option in Nemanja Matic’s contract had been taken up by the club, extending the Serbian’s stay by another year until 2021. This news, even as little as three months ago, would have been completely unexpected.
It looked as if the holding midfielder’s legs were shot, often getting exposed in midfield. At the start of the season, it looked like he had been displaced by the emerging partnership of Scott McTominay and Fred. The pairing put in a number of consistent and dominant displays, looking like it was very hard to be dislodged. Matic was plagued by injuries and was outcast by the duo.
The turning point came when Scott McTominay picked up his lengthy injury on boxing day, meaning the Serbian would have to be relied upon more and more.
What became surprising was the dominant displays Nemanja Matic put in on his return. He completely kept Chelsea at bay in the crucial away performance at Stamford Bridge and scored a fantastic goal in the away win at the Etihad. In the most recent performance, the stunning victory at home against our bitter derby rivals, Matic was solid from start to finish. He screened the defence fantastically well, meaning United could keep yet another clean sheet in the process.
This resurgence was a complete shock. Arguably, he has not hit these heights in a United shirt. Admittedly, his impact in Jose’s second season at the helm was pretty successful, but he still often looked laboured and limited in possession.
I am not suggesting this limitation has completely been lifted. However, there has been a clear improvement in Matic’s dynamism, providing much more of a link to the forward players. Bruno Fernandes may be a factor in this, allowing United to play much easier through the lines. There have been reports, such as in The Athletic, that the coaching staff have been working with our number thirty-one in improving his forward play. By all accounts, this work is for sure paying off.
The extension may not be simply till 2021, as there are some reports that he is in negotiations for a fresh contract which would further extend the Serbian’s stay at Old Trafford.
It must be seen as the correct choice, given this clear improvement in form. Next season, whenever that may be, the midfield options should be strong and deep in numbers. Bruno, McTominay, Fred and Matic already provide strong combinations in midfield. Then, if you factor in if Pogba stays and another defensive midfield addition, United’s midfield will look stronger than any post-Fergie Manchester United side.