The 31 year old Serbian is reportedly pushing for a move away from Old Trafford in search of first team football possibly as early as January next year. The news is neither shocking nor something the team management or the fanbase will lose sleep over but his abilities and consistent performances in his prime are not something to be belittled in hindsight.
One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure
It was a classic case of the player following a manager on his new trails when Jose Mourinho lured Nemanja Matic from the claws of Chelsea for £40 million in 2017. Undoubtedly, he was one of the first name on the team sheet week in week out. Deployed as a defensive midfielder to help turnover possession and transition defending into attack, Matic was Mourinho’s trusted midfield general but always had his critics in terms of speed and skill.
– 36/38 matches played in the league in his debut season for United
– An impressive 2.14 points per game in that season
– 30 appearances in the league last season, most of them under Mourinho
The above stats clearly illustrate the trust and confidence Mourinho placed in his man and to be fair to him, Matic delivered his best but ever since Ole’s arrival, his vulnerabilities coupled with his age have pushed him down the pecking order.
Ole came in with the desire to play fast, sharp and attacking football, not some traits one would associate with Matic’s game. From partnering McTominay and Fred to now losing his place to them, it has led to serious questions about his place in the side.
– Just 2 league starts this season and 5 appearances in all, last one coming way back on October 3
Although since then he’s supposedly ‘injured’, it’s no secret that the midfielder has fallen out of favour. He even openly had expressed displeasure in his omission from the side but also admitted it was upto him to convince the manager otherwise. Criticised for his slow mobility, he didn’t help himself with lacklustre performances in his odd selection into the side. In more bad news for him, Fred and McTominay seem to have conjured up a nice partnership with the young Garner and Gomes waiting to break into the team.
What the Future Might Hold
Football is an age old game but when it comes to certain aspects, the fans are said to have silly and short memories. Jose Mourinho confessed that finishing second in his penultimate season was one of his finest achievements in which Matic played an elemental role mind you. Antonio Conte admitted to have unwillingly sanctioned Matic’s sale during his time at Chelsea. The Serbian played a crucial role in helping the Italian clinch the Premier League in his debut season, a noteworthy achievement. Probably explains why rumours of Conte wanting his man back at Inter might have some substance with Ac Milan, Juventus and BVB also considering the defensive midfielder.
Ole clearly has his eyes on the future illustrated by the departures of Herrera and Fellaini. Mata and Matic have been frozen out in midfield as well. With the Serbian’s contract running out next June, it will be interesting to see if United sanction a move in January or utilise the option to extend his contract for a further 12 months to avoid losing him for nothing next summer.
The bigger question in my opinion is how he will be replaced. Pogba is due back soon and McTominay is reportedly injured out for a few weeks so it is probably fair that the fast run of fixtures before the January transfer window will determine if United can cope without him in the side.
It is true that his time might be coming to and end but his unsung performances warrant him dignity and respect. His experience has been useful I’m sure in training and in showing the ropes to incoming youngsters. The departure of Nemanja Matic should depend on the capability and willingness to replace him with better, younger, faster and sharper players suited to the profile of the team but if his sale is not backed up with much needed purchases in the midfield department, a paper thin inexperienced and depleted squad might want to hold on to the experienced head for now.