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Nemanja Matic’s signing is the most important one this season

For the majority of last summer, every United fan was on tender hooks to see which striker the Reds were going to sign, or who would be chosen to add some stability at the back. But the most important position that needed addressing was that of a defensive midfielder.

It was a weak point of an otherwise good season for the Reds in 2016/17, but all too often would the midfield get overrun and there would be a mismatch in the final third, especially against the stronger sides. This was no doubt one of the reasons why we ultimately fell short in the league.

A few names were being touted as a possible partner for Paul Pogba in the centre of midfield, for example, that of the young Monaco star Fabinho, a right-back turned centre midfielder who lit up the Champions League. Another name that came into the mix was Renato Sanches, a young European Championship winner, now turned Swansea flop.

What we really needed was experience, a winning mentality, toughness and discipline to sit and protect the back four. Nemanja Matic was ultimately signed from Chelsea and it was most probably the signing of the summer, coming in at just £40 million for a player in the prime of his career who had just lead his team to the League title only months before.

He hit the ground running straight from the first game of the season against West Ham where he won Man of the Match, and he hasn’t looked back since.

The Serbian International is a player who has not only strengthened a rocky midfield from last season, where we relied on our rear guard of David De Gea a little bit too much at times.

He has also added flair and a bit more freedom to the attacking players going forward, because of their confidence in the 29-year-old along with a much more assured defence to manage the counter-attack.

Someone who has undoubtedly benefited from Matic’s signing is Paul Pogba. A player whose first season back at United after a spell with Juventus, was one with mixed performances, much down to his more restricted role. He had to be a lot more disciplined last season ensuring he wasn’t getting forward too much and holding his ground in front of the back four a little more.

The two struck up a partnership early on this season, even prompting Pogba to say after the West Ham game back in August:

“Against West Ham, Matic was starting behind so I could focus more on attacking.”

 It is the sign of a great player that they can make other players look great around them and that is exactly what Matic is doing, the unselfish stuff that regularly goes unnoticed by most, but not by the United faithful and, more importantly, the boss. Mourinho told the Times back in September: “I cannot say that I had better guys than him in my career.” Some comment from a manager who has managed such midfield maestros such as Claude Makelele and Esteban Cambiasso.

The Serbian International capped 36 times by his country, may not be the signing that every team looks for in the transfer window, but he is just as important as a player who gets 20 plus goals a season. It now seems he is starting to get the recognition that he deserves, and long may it continue, as he will be an integral part of the team if we are to have a successful end to the season.

Written by Dan Pearce

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