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Scott McTominay set for new role at Manchester United?

Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay, 23, could be set for a new role at the Old Trafford club following the arrival of both Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek this year. The two attacking midfielders will most likely see the 23-year-old find his feet in a new midfield role which is likely to be a defensive midfield role. United recently rewarded Nemanja Matic, 32, with a new contract at the club, which will probably be his last at United before retirement. The Serbian has already retired from international football this summer.

The Athletic has reported that United have a hole in the defensive area of the midfield with just Matic as the defensive minded midfielder also citing that the clubs failed pursuit of Jude Bellingham is also reason for McTominay being put into his new role at the club. The 23-year-old has played a defensive role at the club in his breakthrough season under Jose Mourinho but will probably need some assistance to find his feet in the position, which is where Matic could come in.

Matic, 32, is not going to be an option for every match but could offer something coming off the bench, or starting in the bigger matches with McTominay playing other matches with him more able to recover between matches with United set to play out the full 2020/21 season in a shorter period of time, playing in the Premier League, Carabao Cup, UEFA Champions League and the Emirates FA Cup. It is something that could work well for United, if McTominay finds his feet in the new position.

Matic would be seen as the ideal mentor for McTominay which could see him thrive in the position. He is a physical player and during the 2019/20 season, especially when Paul Pogba was injured before the end of 2019, showed what he could do for his club and got stuck into various midfield roles, playing alongside Matic and Fred in the centre of midfield. Since Fernandes has arrived though, McTominay has more often been a substitute, playing in the advanced areas but not doing all that well.

Throughout the course of the 2019/20 season, McTominay made a total of 37 appearances for United, scoring five goals and one assist. His best goal came against Manchester City, scoring a late long-distance goal to secure the three points for United in what was the last match to be played at the Theatre of Dreams with supporters present in the stadium. It was a great goal that secured Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side the Premier League double over City, which shows the direction the club has been heading in under the Norwegian manager, despite the negativity from Twitter fans.

McTominay signed a new contract at United this summer, which will keep him at the club until the summer of 2025, with the option of a further year to be added. This shows that United have a future for the player and he will be an asset in the years to come once he finds his feet in his new position. The 23-year-old has played 23 times in the 2019/20 season in the central midfield position, playing 11 times in the defensive midfield position – the other appearances playing in advanced areas on the pitch. This shows that he could be moulded into the heir to Matic with the Serbian helping him find his feet, which would be good for him.

Written by John Walker

Nemanja Matic warns Manchester United ahead of Premier League title challenge

Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic, 32, warned the Old Trafford club that there would be no excuses if they failed to mount a Premier League title challenge during the 2020/21 season. Last season, United finished third in the Premier League, earning UEFA Champions League football but finished 33 points adrift of champions Liverpool and 15 points adrift of second placed Manchester City. The Serbian midfielder lifted the Premier League title twice with Chelsea and believes that United must challenge Liverpool’s dominance.

Matic recently earned himself a new contract at United based on his performances this season, which saw him return to the best of his ability despite him largely being rested at the end of the season. The new contract keeps him at United until the summer of 2023. During the 2019/20 season, Matic made a total of 34 appearances for United, scoring one goal and three assists. He has a lot of passion for the club and wants to achieve things, matching what he achieved at Chelsea.

The Serbian midfielder, who retired from international duty this week was quoted by The Mirror saying that United had no excuse to most a title challenge this season, saying:

“From the next season there is no excuse. We have to go with everything. We have to fight for the title because I felt that this year we dropped some points too easy.

“They won the league, so we cannot allow that. We need to fight to the end. We have to play with more confidence, with more responsibility.”

United have a good squad and this summer, the addition of a few more players will raise the bar at the club, also raising the quality, which has been lacking outside of the starting XI and a few other players in the squad. If United managed to sign three players; a winger, a midfielder and a central defender, things might be a bit better for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to achieve things with the club. Matic will have personal targets that he wants to achieve, one of which is winning the Premier League with United. He continued by saying:

“My personal target is to win the league with United – and I am sure that everyone wants to do the same.

“We have to promise our supporters that we will do our best – exactly what we have done after corona when we started to play again.

“That’s United. We have to win five, six consecutive games then you can drop some points, then again you have to do that run.

“Like that we can win the league. In the beginning of the season we were not stable, we won one or two games then we lost and we drew.

“Proper United is exactly what we did after corona and I hope we can continue like that next season.”

It just goes to show that players have ambition to win things at the club and Matic is exactly the same. His stock has risen this season after he showed the signs of a leadership role at the club, seeking to get United firing and heading in the right direction. With the reports of Donny van de Beek being United’s first signing of the summer, the midfield will be a position that is strengthened with Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Matic, Scott McTominay and Fred, with the addition of the Dutchman giving United six players and a little more depth and quality.

Written by John Walker

Nemanja Matic says Manchester United ‘cannot allow’ Liverpool to romp to the Premier League title again

Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic has stated that the Old Trafford club ‘cannot allow’ the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City or another other club romp to the Premier League title like the Merseyside club did this season. It would seem that seeing Liverpool win their first league title in 30 years has started a fire within in order to aim to stop that happening again next season. Liverpool earned 99 points in the league this season, unable to break the 100 point barrier.

The Merseyside club ended up being named as the Premier League champions when Chelsea beat Manchester City with the club having seven matches of the season remaining. Of course, to the Liverpool aligned media, it made the club the best ever to play in and win the Premier League because they won the title at the earliest it had ever been won. Overreaction and Liverpool tends to come together, no matter the circumstance.

United had a strong end to the Premier League season, unbeaten in 14 league matches, earning a third-placed finish after chasing down Leicester City, who at one stage of the season were 14 points ahead of United with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side finishing four points ahead of Brendan Rodgers’ side. Matic has stated that finishing 33 points behind the eventual winners of the league will not be good enough next season, which is 100% correct. United should be doing much better.

Solskjaer will need to get things started this summer with the club needing to add a minimum of three top players to the squad in order to have the strength and depth in the squad to be able to rotate players next season, which will be required with the club competing in the Premier League, Carabao Cup, UEFA Champions League and the Emirates FA Cup. Speaking to Inside United and reported by the official Manchester United website, Matic said:

“Me, personally, I would like to win the Premier League with Manchester United. I think that our club always needs to fight for the title.

“We always need to try to do the best for this club, which we are doing at the moment, and I think we cannot allow any club to win the league seven or 10 games before the season finishes. So we have to fight until the end.

“Of course, we have a young team, but this cannot be an excuse. I think these young players already have a few seasons behind them playing. So, from the next season, we have to fight for the title.

“I don’t know if we’re going to win [it] but I’m sure that we can fight until the end. That’s my personal target and I think the rest of my team-mates think the same.”

It is good to hear that at least one United player wants to hit back and make the Old Trafford faithful proud of the club once again. United should have been motivated that Liverpool have been getting better in the past few years and should have been aiming to stop them from winning the league. Now that they have done that, Matic and his teammates will be seeking to stop their party from spreading into multiple summers, aiming to wrestle the Premier League title from them, returning it to Manchester in May 2021.

Written by John Walker

Nemanja Matic surprised by the immediate impact of Bruno Fernandes this season

Manchester United defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic has admitted that he has ben surprised with the speed of which Bruno Fernandes has adapted to life at the Old Trafford club since signing for the club during the January transfer window. He has had an immediate impact at the club which is a good thing.

So far this season, Fernandes has made 12 appearances for the club, scoring four goals and four assists. During a period in which Paul Pogba was out of action through injury, Fernandes filled in and immediately became a player that could be trusted in the squad, helping drive United forward on their push for a top four finish this season.

United will be back in action on Tuesday evening as they face Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League, seeking three points to keep the chase on Chelsea and rise up to fifth in the league after being leapfrogged by Wolverhampton Wanderers after they beat Aston Villa 1-0 at the weekend. Fernandes played two hours against Norwich City in the FA Cup on Saturday, so he could be rested against Brighton.

Matic has stated that he knew United were signing quality in Fernandes because the Serbian has kept an eye on Portuguese football after he left Benfica in 2014. At that time, Fernandes was playing for Udinese in Italy, then signing for Sampdoria in the summer of 2015, before signing for Sporting Clube de Portugal in the summer of 2017. Matic said:

“I’ve followed him for a long time because I played in the Portuguese league at Benfica.

“I knew he would bring quality for us. He played for a big club with a lot of pressure to win, but I didn’t think he would adapt so quick. From the first minute in the Premier League he made the difference.

“I’m happy for him and happy we have him in the team. He’s playing in the position where he needs to make the difference. He has all the ability to be the leader on the pitch.”

It is good to see United with Fernandes in the team. Last summer, when the player was hotly linked with a move to the Old Trafford club, there was some disappointment when nothing materialised after a summer of rumours from his home nation. It was great to see United sign the player in January though, which was needed. Now he is forming a partnership with Paul Pogba, it could set United up on the road to greatness again.

Nemanja Matic can earn himself a new Manchester United contract, according to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted that defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic could earn a new contract at the Old Trafford club providing that he can keep his current form. Not that long ago, it looked like the Serbian midfielder’s career at the Theatre of Dreams was up but this season, he has shown signs of not giving up.

Injury problems with Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay have given Matic ample time in the starting XI this season, showing signs that he is not over the hill and still has something to offer United. Against Tottenham Hotspur on Friday, he was missed and brought on late in the game then against Sheffield United, he started and United did well.

Solskjaer believes that the Serbian is now at the top of his game once more, which bodes well with United keeping chase on Chelsea to break into the top four of the Premier League this season, earning UEFA Champions League football, which has been the objective all season. United have two chances to do that this season.

Solskjaer, speaking to the official Manchester United website, spoke about Matic and how he is playing she of his best football at the present time. It is good to have him in the squad at this moment in time as I feel he compliments both Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes in midfield together. Solskjaer said:

“Nemanja is playing some of his best football. He’s had a good pre-season for the first time in many, many years and today he was dictating the game and his experience is vital for us.

“I’m very, very happy that we’re seeing the best of Nemanja and he’ll be important for us and then, of course, it’s down to performances and if Nemanja wants to stay but at the moment he’s in great form.”

Back in March, United triggered a one-year contract extension for Matic, 32 meaning he will remain at the club until the summer of 2021. Between then and now, he could earn a new long-term contract at United. United recently signed Scott McTominay to a new long-term contract at the club, and Matic seems to be content with rotation at the club, saying:

“It is always good to play with top players and we are lucky we have top players in every position. [Against Sheffield United] I played with Bruno and Paul and we did really well.

“It was a good formation and I am sure in the future we can improve a lot together also with Scott [McTominay] and Fred when they play with us.”

The experience of Nemanja Matic can still be vital for Manchester United's youngsters

Nemanja Matic has made a remarkable return to the Manchester United first team in the new year, starting four of the last five matches. Matic was seen at the start of the season by many United fans to be a by-product of Jose Mourinho’s tenure and that he would face the same fate as Marouane Fellaini, frozen out for a more dynamic midfield set up under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and that he would be eventually sold.

The Serbian did feature in early Europa League group games against Astana and AZ Alkmaar, but also appeared in a disastrous 2-0 defeat away to West Ham United in September. He did not feature at all for the club between early October and mid-December and although he had been struggling with a groin injury, not many were eagerly anticipating his return. However, injuries to Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba, on top of the limited midfield options the Reds started the season with, have given Matic a chance again. 

He seems to have taken his chance with his performances at Burnley and at home to Norwich both going somewhat under the radar, as his tidy and professional work protecting the defence allowed the likes of Andreas Pereira and Juan Mata to create goals. Even goalkeeping legend Peter Schmeichel stated he would like to see Matic in the team after the 3-3 draw at Sheffield United, when United dramatically took the lead only to surrender it late on.

“They needed a player like Matic today just to sit in that defensive midfield role and calm things down.

“He’s been criticised for slowing the ball down and playing the ball backwards too many times, but sometimes they needed that in this game.”

It’s no wonder also that with Matic back in the team, United look more solid. Of the 11 clean sheets the team have kept this season, Matic has featured in eight of them. It is, however, his experience in the team that has been the main positive of his return. Not only will Matic give a calming presence on the pitch but also off it, helping the likes of Brandon Williams and Mason Greenwood with their integration into the first team. 

When Scott McTominay first came onto the scene in Jose Mourinho’s first season, he was learning from the likes of Nemanja Matic in his position and Matic was so impressed by what he had seen he tipped McTominay for greatness during that same season. McTominay now seems ahead of him in the pecking order but who knows if he would have developed so much since if it wasn’t for the influence from the Serbian. 

One player who will be looking to benefit in the same way will be James Garner and Matic spoke after the Carabao Cup match against Colchester United about how he tries to help the younger players and that inconsistency with them is nothing new to him.

“We have to be more consistent in our games, but this is normal for a young team without experience.”

With United now playing a game every three or four days and as the season reaches its climax, the Reds will hopefully maintain a battle for the top four and go as far as possible in the cup competitions. It will be vital for this inexperienced team to have serial winners who know what it takes to get results and to get over the line. 

There are rumours he may be given a one year extension, but if Nemanja Matic was to be moving on in the summer when his contract expires, he could well leave a lasting impact on some of the clubs youngsters.

Juventus seeking to sign Nemanja Matic on a free; the one-year clause in his contract could see some return for his departure

Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic is now wanted by Juventus according to reports. The reigning Serie A champions will be seeking to sign the player as a free agent in the summer, aiming to get the 31-year-old to sign a pre-contract agreement as early as January as they did with former Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey.

Matic was benched by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for the first four matches of the season, missing the victory over Chelsea, the draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers, the defeat to Crystal Palace and making a 22minute cameo in the 1-1 draw with Southampton. On Saturday though, Matic started in the 1-0 victory over Leicester City.

During the international break, the Serbian midfielder admitted that he did not agree with Solskjaer’s decision, giving the impression that he was not happy with life at United. At the end of the day, he needs to offer what the team and the manager demands, otherwise, he is not going to fit the picture at all. Matic did well against Leicester but it is clear he doesn’t fit.

During the summer, it was reported that both AC Milan and Inter Milan were interested in signing Matic, but they were unable to sign the 31-year-old due to United not allowing him to leave. The midfield has been left at barebones since both Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera left this year, with no replacements incoming.

Matic’s current contract expires at the end of the season, but when Jose Mourinho signed the former Chelsea midfielder, a clause offering an extra year was inserted in the players contract, which can be activated at any time. If United do this, it could be that they have plans to sell him in January or in the next summer transfer window.

This would be good business rather than letting a £40 million signing leave the club after just three years. Granted, United would struggle to get anything close to £40 million for the player but a return, no matter how little would be better than letting Juventus sign him as a free agent, something they seem to do quite regularly.

I really cannot see Matic having to play many matches for United this season. He was literally only a starting player against Leicester on Saturday because Paul Pogba was injured and Fred was probably not ready to start, based on the fact he has not played since pre-season. With some game time, Fred will probably be ahead of Matic, in Solskjaer’s eyes.

The rise of Scott McTominay will have been a bitter pill for Matic, but after praising the young midfielder the season before last, he could have seen this day coming. McTominay offers everything that Matic cannot, especially pace and energy, which is reason for Matic, more often than not, being benched by Solskjaer.

If James Garner earns himself an opportunity to play for the first team this season, which his early form suggests he could do, then Matic will be pegged even further back in the squad, which will be good to see, not for him though. Matic is a professional and will understand that United need to cater for the wider picture, not just for him.

Nemanja Matic’s time at Manchester United is drawing to a close; academy graduate ready to show his worth

Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic is coming to the end of his career at the club. In the summer, both AC Milan and Inter Milan were interested in the 31-year-old, whose contract will run out at the end of the season, although there is the option for another year to be added, which might ensure United got a fee for the player, should he leave.

Reports in the media suggested that Matic was ‘forced’ to stay at the club this summer but could have linked up with Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez at Inter, if he was allowed to leave. So far this season, after not being picked to start or come off the bench in the first three matches, Matic played 22 minutes against Southampton, a 1-1 draw.

Looking at the fact Matic has been overlooked by Solskjaer this season is pretty telling that his number is nearly up. When he has played, he has been very slow, effectively slowing down United’s counter-attacking play, even taking time to despatch the ball, which is clearly not going to work for United. Matic has been professional, to a point.

Only last week, Matic had suggested that Solskjaer could lose his job this season if he did not get things right. Some took that as a criticism, others a call to arms to get the players ready for their matches after the first international break of the season. The media, of course, took the negative slant as the words ‘Manchester United’ sell and bring in clicks. Matic said:

“The coach must opt for the team that will fight for the title and if he does not win, he bears the responsibility.

“I have been in football for a long time, I have played almost all the games for all the clubs in the last 10 years.

“In order for me to play, one had to sit on the bench and accept that fact, and so do I now.”

At this moment in time, it is hard to see where Matic fits into this United team. With Solskjaer utilising a 4-2-3-1 formation, which is not really working, with Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay the trusted central midfielders, even a switch to a 4-3-3 formation might see Matic remain on the bench or not involved at all.

United need more creativity in the midfield, which is where Angel Gomes could come in. In terms of filling Matic’s position, James Garner, who has so far performed for the U23s this season, scoring four goals and one assist in the four matches he has played, could see him fast-tracked into first team contention, which would be great to see.

Garner has been compared to United coach and former player, Michael Carrick. This is based on his style of play and positioning during matches. Despite his age, 18, Garner plays football as a much older player. He is calm and composed with a high work rate and level of determination. He’s a natural leader with a good footballing mind.

Ensuring that the 18-year-old plays first team football this season will be down to Solskjaer, who can call on his services from the U23s. United also have the likes of Fred, who has not played a single minute of football this season but for me, Garner is the more exciting prospect, although Fred should be given a chance to redeem himself after last season.

I would imagine, that if Garner started playing to a good standard at first-team level, the likelihood of Matic leaving in January or even next summer would be very high, as long as there was interest in his services, of which there would seem to be in Italy. Should Garner and Fred play well, if, given the chance, this could, in fact, become reality?

Looking at Manchester United’s midfield depth for the 2019/20 season

Manchester United’s midfield is somewhat depleted following the departure of Marouane Fellaini in January and Ander Herrera leaving the club as a free agent in the summer. At least that is what the moaning relates to as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should have strengthened the midfield during the summer transfer window.

However, the Norwegian opted to sign a winger instead, in Daniel James, who arrived for £15 million from Swansea City. It was a summer that saw Paul Pogba state to the media that he wanted a new challenge and one which saw United linked to a number of different midfielders. Bruno Fernandes was linked to the club for the entire summer window.

Some will suggest that United’s midfield is weak and there are no positives should Pogba actually leave before the European window closes, or if he suffers from an injury. However, as an optimist, I see options, not great options but options for players to grow and learn a place in the midfield. However, some will not be happy with this fix.

Defensive midfield depth; a player on the decline or players lacking experience.

Nemanja Matic is the player with experience in the defensive midfield position. But as last season and during pre-season has clearly shown, the Serbian has lost his pace, is slow and on the decline. Based on this, he will not be expected to play a big role at the club this season. There are players under him with less experience.

At this moment in time, Scott McTominay will start ahead of Matic as he has been offering more to the team than Matic can at the minute, possibly for the future too. In rotation, McTominay could be challenged by Andreas Pereira and Tim Fosu-Mensah, once he has recovered from knee surgery. Another option is James Garner.

It might not be something that you would consider great depth but it is still depth nonetheless. McTominay has developed into a decent midfielder and that has not finished for him. Having the likes of Pereira, Fosu-Mensah and Garner, also Matic means there are options there if there needs to be. Solskjaer has a plan and he will follow that plan.

Central midfield depth; Pogba has little competition for a starting central midfield role.

In this position, Paul Pogba is the player that others will need to get past in order to play regularly, at least in the 4-2-3-1 formation with only two midfielders. In another formation, say 4-3-3, a third midfielder would be given the chance to earn their place in the team. However, the 4-2-3-1 formation has been used most often by Solskjaer.

If Pogba was to be injured or was rested keeping in mind bigger matches during the course of the season, the likes of Fred and Andreas Pereira could replace him in the team. Fred could also play as a defensiveminded midfielder but this being his second season, it would be best to see him play this role. Garner too, however, it may be too soon for him.

Pereira has done well, however, I am not sure the centre of midfield is where Pereira should be playing; he played on the right-wing for periods against Chelsea last weekend. The depth here is not the greatest but it will have to do, until January at least when Solskjaer may make a move to strengthen his squad. Failing that, it will be next summer.

The formation above shows the depth of the midfield. There are seven players competing for a central midfield role, of which in the current formation, two will start each match. If the formation changes, there could be a further place available in the team. There is some strengthening needed but that doesn’t just mean buying players.

There are many players in the team that could be used in these positions if the need arises. I am sure Juan Mata could play a central role, as could Angel Gomes. It might not be ideal but it could work. However, with the seven names to fortify these positions, it would take a long injury list to ensure Solskjaer played other players out of their favoured positions.

The depth is there, although it is not as magnificent as it might be. But the way I look at things, the depth of the squad, at least in the striker role was not great in the 2015/16 season and after Anthony Martial injured himself in the warm-up ahead of the Midtjylland match, Marcus Rashford may not have had the impact in which he’s had. Every cloud and all that!

Problem-Matic? What can the towering Serb still give to Manchester United?

Manchester United signed Nemanja Matić from Chelsea at the end of July 2017 for a reported fee of £40 million. This was the second time he was signed by then-United manager José Mourinho, who had previously brought the Serbian back to Chelsea in January of 2014. Matić was captured to add some steel and aggression to United’s midfield, and he eventually replaced Michael Carrick as the club’s foremost defensive midfielder.

Carrick later retired owing to a heart condition, while Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini have recently departed the club. This leaves Matić as the most senior member of United’s midfield and he is also the only specialist defensive midfielder among those regularly in the first-team. He recently celebrated his 31st birthday which, when combined with the club’s recent promotion of academy players, calls into question his long-term future at United.

Matić also enters the final year of his contract in 2019/20, although the club has the option to extend this by another year. Prior to joining United, Matić won a number of trophies with former clubs Chelsea and SL Benfica while also playing nearly 50 games for the Serbian national team. He won the Premier League twice with Chelsea and was a prominent member of the team on both occasions, being named in the PFA Team of the Year in 2014/15.

He achieved similar success at Benfica prior to this, being named Primeira Liga Player of the Year in 2012/13 and helped them to a league title win in 2013-14, although he did end up re-joining Chelsea halfway through that particular season. This proved to be a golden period for the former Red Star Belgrade youth player, as he was named Serbia’s Player of the Year in 2014 and 2015.

Matić’s debut season at United went well for the most part, with the club finishing runners-up in both the Premier League and FA Cup. He played in 49 games in 2017/18 and opened his goal-scoring account for the club with a stunning last-minute winner away at Crystal Palace in the league in early March. This goal was later voted the club’s Goal of the Season. Matić struggled with injuries through the 2018/19 season and these underpinned United’s dreadful end to the season.

Even before this, United fans had noticed that Matic’s performance levels seem to drop whenever he is asked to play consecutive games in quick succession. This is unsurprising given his age and the club’s lack of a player to rotate him with. He has also played around 40 games a season for the last six seasons, all the while being a regular starting player for the Serbian national team. The number of games played by Matić this season will need to be carefully monitored by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his team.

His experience in the Premier League is going to be invaluable in United’s quest to qualify for the UEFA Champions League and the United manager is likely to rely upon him for large chunks of the season. Solskjaer has recently warmed to the idea of using Scott McTominay in defensive midfield and this may be the rotation option used in 2019/20, particularly in the other competitions United find themselves in.

Like Matić, McTominay offers a significant physical presence in midfield and is not shy of a tackle or getting in the face of the opposition. This makes him the most like-for-like player at Solskjaer’s disposal in the event that Matić is unavailable, as an incoming transfer for a defensive midfielder looks unlikely at this stage. McTominay also brings a more mobile and energetic approach to the role, much like the more impressive defensive midfielders in the Premier League over the last few seasons.

The same could be said of Brazilians Fred and Andreas Pereira, who have also been used in defensive midfield. This is clearly better suited to the style of play Solskjaer is looking to implement at the moment. Guiding and mentoring younger players is going to be an important aspect of Matić’s remaining time at United, much like Michael Carrick did before his retirement. Carrick, who is now the club’s assistant manager, has been tasked with nurturing the next generation, in particular McTominay, Fred, Pereira and teenager James Garner.

Being unable to guide them on the pitch himself, Carrick will turn to Matić to offer leadership to the club’s youngsters amidst the heat of battle. This echoes events in previous eras at United, where senior figures gave direction to academy players who eventually supplanted them. The older players’ playing times were gradually reduced as they were phased out and this is likely to happen to Matić, even if he ends up staying at the club beyond next summer.

At his best, Matić acts as a shield for his defence and helps United take control of the game from midfield. As one would have expected, his mobility has been reduced as the years have gone by, but he still possesses his intelligence and tactical awareness. Despite this, he is going to have to adapt his game as he gets older, much like the United midfield greats who were still key players well into their 30s. Should he be able to do this, he may earn that contract extension and perhaps stay at the club for quite some time.

Written by Shiven Nayager

copyright: JW