During the last summer, there was a lot of talk about possible Manchester United signings. Jose Mourinho told his superiors he wanted four players, one of them being a defensive midfielder. He got three in the end, but they were all in much needed positions.
For a long period of time, there was a talk of Eric Dier and his potential move from Tottenham to United. In the end, the Devils found a solution – Nemanja Matic arrived from Chelsea for around £40m. At first, many people thought that was way too much, but the inflated transfer market and Matic’s first minutes in the famous red shirt made it clear: this was a bargain.
Now the two players will face each other in a Premier League for the first summer since the window closed. Was Mourinho’s decision the right one?
Nemanja Matic Is Great For Manchester United
Serbian international plays incredibly well this season. He adjusted to life in Manchester easily and without proper pre-season started the campaign very strong. How important player he is for this team his minutes on the pitch tell us. He has not missed a single minute of the Premier League season, nor the Champions League campaign.
His game looks pure and flows with ease. Matic is not trying to find complicated solutions, he changes the tempo of the game almost unmistakably and not often does he need to make his shorts dirty. He reads the game well and positions himself correctly, so he averages just two tackles per game. As well, his percentage of successful passes is high, 88.5 per cent.
Eric Dier Improves Under Mauricio Pochettino
On the other hand, Eric Dier managed to become a first team regular this season. Mauricio Pochettino gave him almost the same amount of time on the pitch as Matic had at United. Dier is also a technically gifted player, he likes to occasionally make risks with forward passes, trying to break opposition lines.
Also, the young Englishman can play in more positions than Matic. He also does well at centre-back, mostly playing in a defensive three, rather than a usual four. Pochettino used him there couple of times last season, but his failings at centre-back are visible. His physical strength and build are not adjusted to Premier League standards, therefore, Dier’s footballing intellect itself is not enough to be playing in that position regularly.
Many pundits have been saying last season he should specialize himself in one particular position, rather than being good in many different ones. That would be a risk for his career in highest echelons of European football, but this season Dier has done exactly that. Pochettino trusts him in defensive midfield position and he has been repaying that with good displays, especially against Real Madrid in Champions League.
Final Verdict: Nemanja Matic
However, Matic is still a better solution for this Manchester United side. He has a lot of experience in big European clubs, he has been winning titles and that kind of winner is what Mourinho needs in this team. Team’s spine is now much more stable. The Serbian has better concentration than Dier, which is very important for this position. Also, he is already behaving as one of the leaders of this team.
Dier is 23 and he will most certainly be a very good player in the future. However, Mourinho is not really renowned for being quite patient with players. It is a question how eager would he be to wait for Dier to become an important player for Manchester United. After all, he is not key player for the Tottenham side either. Matic’s solidity is a big plus, he is taller and better in aerial duels. Not even to mention how much Mourinho loves Matic from their time at Chelsea.
The media have been insisting Dier was Mourinho’s first choice this summer. However, Nemanja Matic has already proved to everyone how instrumental he is for Manchester United.