The youth need the freedom to express themselves says Nemanja Matic


Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic has suggested that the clubs talented youth players should be given the freedoms to express themselves, which will be key to their development at the club or elsewhere. The Serbian international playing alongside Scott McTominay in the 1-0 victory over Bournemouth at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening, also being partnered with the 21-year-old in the UEFA Champions League victory over Benfica earlier in the season.

Just before United kicked off against Bournemouth, it was announced that 17-year-old Angel Gomes had signed his first professional contract with the club, something which many, including myself, were worried about as nothing seemed to be developing quickly after the player returned from England U17 duty after winning the FIFA U17 World Cup. At the end of last season, in the final Premier League match at Old Trafford, Gomes was given his debut against Crystal Palace, replacing Wayne Rooney and becoming the youngest player to ever play for the club since Duncan Edwards in 1953.

Matic stated that he had been impressed with McTominay in the matches he has played with him, stating that the player has taken to life in the United first team, playing a crucial role in the ‘engine room’ of the squad. Matic also stated the importance of not putting any further pressure on players such as McTominay, which will help them in the future to achieve their dreams, whether it is at United or another club. The Serbian midfielder, speaking to the official Manchester United website, said:

“I think the young players just need freedom [to play], you don’t need to put extra pressure on them because they feel the pressure when they’re on the pitch playing for Manchester United, they have enough pressure, so you have to try to release them a little bit and then they can show all their quality.

“The manager is there to explain to someone like Scott what he needs to do and I’m really happy for him because he’s a good guy and I’m sure in the future he will get more chances to play and show his qualities.

“The most important thing for a young player is that they’re focused on their job and that they’re not focused on things outside of football. He has exactly what he needs to become a big player. He’s working a lot every day and is looking to the older players to take things from them and to learn and I’m sure that he will be an England star and a Manchester United star because I think he is born for this job.”

Matic himself was a youth player coming through the ranks and he was asked about advice he was given as a talented youth player, something which he still followed today. The Serbian, speaking about the advice received, revealed:

“When I was young I just tried to, let’s say, copy the older players… how they work and how they were as professionals. We are all different, you cannot try to do what the other players do because one player has one quality and you might have another, but I always tried to look at everything about how they worked, how they were professional and all these things.”

It is important that youth players earmark a player they would like to be like, whether it happens or not, it does not matter when these players are aiming to break through from the youth ranks into the senior team. Players such as Axel Tuanzebe, McTominay and others will all be aiming to secure their place in the first team this season and next, aiming to impress the manager and seal their place in the team and help win matches and trophies for the Old Trafford club. It doesn’t always go to plan with players at United, but they do forge a career for themselves at other clubs.

Matic has shown that he is willing to be a role model to players coming through the ranks, identifying with them, as he had been in the same position, like every footballer at every club around the world. It is great to see players such as the Serbian taking an interest in the youth coming through the club, which will set an example amongst his peers and perhaps see the likes of McTominay, Tuanzebe and maybe even Gomes come through the ranks and prove themselves at the highest level.

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