Ever since Nemanja Matic arrived at Manchester United, people wondered why Chelsea let him go to a rival club.
Is he past his peak? Was his impact not good enough, playing next to N’Golo Kante? Nevertheless, Man United got their signing for £40m on the last day of July but the fans were unsure. Chelsea were getting rid of Matic since the summer started and something was suspicious about it.
Yet, it was not long after Manchester United fans realised Matic was a blessing in disguise. On his debut against Sampdoria, just a fortnight ago, the Serbian international showed what he could. He dictated tempo, laid off passes to players in wider positions, but was also the shield in front of defence.
Nemanja Matic Is Everywhere
Matic played two competitive matches since, against Real Madrid and West Ham United. He was reassuring and an obvious improvement on Ander Herrera or Michael Carrick in that position. While Carrick’s passing abilities are great, he is not bringing physicality into the game as Matic does.
His map of touches made against West Ham shows exactly how comprehensive Matic’s role is. He is not just sitting as an anchor in front of centre-backs. Matic is a more of an all-round defensive midfielder. He plays in a box-to-box role with the caution of defensive midfielder and technique of an attacking midfielder.
— United Xtra (@utdxtra) August 14, 2017
It is well known Matic was an attacking midfielder in earlier years of his career, until his Benfica manager, Jorge Jesus, decided to change that.
Freeing Up Pogba
It is a storyline ever since Matic joined Man United. He will free up Paul Pogba. The Frenchman will have more attacking duties because of Matic’s defensive work. And it is a correct one.
This image below shows exactly that. Matic sits deeper than Herrera did against West Ham in last season’s 1-1 draw. Herrera’s usual position is not as deep as Matic’s and he had tough time playing in the role Mourinho might have wanted him.
— ALEX KAY-JELSKI (@AlexKJTimes) August 16, 2017
Instead, Matic feels ‘at home’ sitting deep, distributing the ball sideways and occasionally sending the ball through the lines. Matic makes sure the shape of the team is always good and that gives attacking-minded players more freedom to not worry about tracking back all the time. Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan should really make the most of that.
Composure Is Key
Nemanja Matic is composed. Hopefully this is not the first time you realised that. He is composed on the ball, he is composed when he attacks opposition player and he is composed off the pitch.
His character is simply like that. Matic is able to bring that into all segments of his game. As we have seen on Sunday against West Ham, everything he did was calm yet effective. His only interception of the game led to Romelu Lukaku’s opening goal in a swift counter attack.
Martin Keown on Matic: "It's like watching a tennis player, he returns to his position after every pass he makes."
Lovely comparison! #MUFC
— Stretford End (@stretford_end) August 15, 2017
Matic committed just two fouls and his offensive display was impeccable. The Serbian completed seven dribbles during 90 minutes, putting on a show on a couple of occasions. His passing was of highest quality, completing 85.5% of them. Matic managed two or three times to change direction of play really fast with long balls, showing all of his arsenal throughout the match.
Nemanja Matic played in just two competitive matches, but showed how he can bring changes to Manchester United. It is now on his team-mates to make the most out of them.