Manchester United are looking for a holding midfielder in this summer’s transfer market, and Nemanja Matic is one of the high-profile names linked with a move to Old Trafford. Jose Mourinho previously worked with the Serbia international but United must shield off interest from Juventus.
It is easy to forget that prior to N’Golo Kante’s arrival and Chelsea’s woeful title defence in 2015-16, Matic established himself as the most formidable midfield destroyer in the Premier League. The question Mourinho will be asking himself is if he can still rediscover his best form? Aged 28, I don’t see why not.
Matic ticks many of the boxes Mourinho looks for in his midfielders: tall, powerful, tactically disciplined and capable of reading the game. This would be a signing brought in to help United unleash Paul Pogba, who we haven’t seen the best from since joining for a world-record fee of £89 million last summer.
Mourinho often deployed a 4-3-3 system last season, favouring a midfield trio of Ander Herrera, Pogba and Michael Carrick. Still, nobody is convinced the United manager is happy with that selection — or Marouane Fellaini for the matter — therefore one of his primary objectives in the transfer market should be finding the perfect candidate to bolster his midfield.
Of course, Chelsea will be wary of selling a player to Mourinho, especially one that will benefit United. The former Stamford Bridge boss was the driving force behind the club’s move to re-sign Matic from Benfica, yet this transfer would still come as a shock to many considering how he publicly questioned the midfielder’s mentality during his final season at Chelsea.
However, Chelsea must consider the timing of parting way with Matic. Conte has identified Monaco’s Tiemoue Bakayoko as a transfer target, meaning game time won’t be as plentiful than in seasons gone by.
It’s also worth considering how Matic has two years remaining on his contract. That means this summer, it is crucial they make a decision on his future one way or other: sell now for maximum value, or agree on some sort of extension.
Matic would offer balance, aggression and tactical disciple in the centre, something United have been craving for a very long time. The club would be acquiring the tactical sensibilities they thought they were getting in Morgan Schneiderlin: refined, robust and a midfielder equipped with the precise features Mourinho so often craves in a player. And more significantly, someone that can offer Pogba the licence to push forward and win games.
Should United sign Matic, Mourinho will have identified an anchor for his 4-3-3 system at Old Trafford. That is assuming he takes up a deeper role than at Chelsea to shield the defence and allow Herrera and Pogba to embrace themselves.