The player season review is continuing and next up is one of the last summer’s signings. Nemanja Matic joined Manchester United after a somewhat shocking transfer from Chelsea and instantly improved the team. His performances were obviously doing a good thing for this team which was obvious already in August, before the season began.
What do the numbers say?
The numbers say that Nemanja Matic spent the most minutes on the pitch of all outfield players. Overall, only David De Gea had more, but Matic’s 3119 Premier League minutes speak enough of his importance to this team. The Serbian midfielder made 36 league appearances and also played in all but one Champions League match. He featured in League Cup once coming off the bench and made four starts in the FA Cup. His presence on the pitch made a big difference on many occasions.
Matic scored only goal this Premier League campaign, but that goal was proclaimed as Manchester United’s goal of the season. He does have a knack for scoring beautiful goals, as he had scored screamers for Benfica, Chelsea and Serbia as well. Matic was making 2.1 successful tackles per 90, accompanied by 1.9 interceptions. He was very secure on the ball, being dispossessed just 0.9 times per 90. Also, Matic’s passing was quite reliable as well – he managed to make 5.3 accurate long balls per 90, offering a change of rhythm to his team-mates when necessary.
He was also making 1.5 successful dribbles per 90, quite a decent number for a defensive midfielder, showing he knew how to progress the ball forwards with the ball at his feet, not only by spraying passes forward.
Was he an important player for the club?
Obviosly, he was very important. Right from the off, Jose Mourinho realized how important he will be for his team and he managed to instill his faith in Matic. The Serbian really felt valued and he played with confidence even without proper pre-season. Matic was very important for the way United played, offering stability and reliability to his team-mates. The balance he was producing was good, making sure that the ball stayed in possession, but also helping out defensively.
Mourinho realized that Paul Pogba particularly could prosper from Matic’s presence. After all, Nemanja is the type of player you could call ‘the Mourinho player’ – he is a leader, consistent and not adventurous, tall and physically strong with some decent technical skills.
Projection for the 2018-19 season
There is not too much to predict, things look obvious from this point of view. Nemanja Matic will continue to be one of the most important players for this Manchester United side. He will be part of the starting XI for the biggest part of the season, like he has been since joining, and it only remains to be seen with whom alongside him will he play and how will that look on the pitch.
My projection is that he will have a similar season to this one, doing well the stuff he knows how to do, without overcomplicating things. As far Mourinho is concerned, that is what he will be asked to do anyway.