Manchester United have signed Nemanja Matic from Chelsea four years ago almost to this day. In the time which has passed since, there have been mixed feelings about the Serbian defensive midfielder, as he reached those late stages of his career. Matic’s performances for Man United varied heavily in recent years, with him sometimes reaching the spells where he reminds of those best days of his he had at Chelsea after returning to England from Portugal. But how did Nemanja Matic do for Man United in this past campaign?
Nemanja Matic made 36 appearances for Manchester United during the 2020-21 campaign, across all five competitions the team competed in. He made 20 appearances in the Premier League, seven more in the Europa League and four in the Champions League. Also, he had three games in the FA Cup and two in the League Cup, registering a total of one assist during the season. But what is important to note is that Matic played only around 2000 minutes in those 36 appearances, which clearly indicates he was often not playing full matches, but rather entering the game in late stages as well. He never made more than three consecutive games in the Premier League and he never started more than two league games in a row, which only happened once, in November. With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer having plenty of options in central midfield and with Fred and Scott McTominay being his favourite midfield partnership, Matic had to settle with limited playing time. Considering he will 33 very soon, that is not too surprising either.
But what are the underlying metrics suggesting? In short, he does not offer almost anything going forwards, which is not something that should be taken as a real negative in his game, considering his role at the base of midfield. His technical qualities were never in doubt, as Matic is one of the most reliable defensive midfielders when in possession. He is in the 97th percentile in terms of having 9.13 progressive carries per 90, in the 95ht percentile with passes attempted and 93rd percentile with his 90.3 per cent pass completion rate. His 6.31 progressive passes per 90 also put him in the 89th percentile among Premier League midfielders. That is all very good.
However, where Matic struggled is harder to see through the numbers, as that has more to do with his lack of pass and not really an ideal sense of positioning. He is not someone who can pressure opponents the way Fred does and he has been dribbled past 1.41 times per 90 minutes.
Nemanja Matic’s role at Man United diminished this past season, after having an amazing end to the previous one. With Man United focused on building for the future, it makes sense for Solskjaer to do so, who does not seem to put too much faith in the Serbian midfielder. Matic’s role in the 2021-22 is expected to remain at a similar level and hopefully he will push hard to reach the heights of couple of seasons ago, when he was one of our best players. That way, others around him will improve as well.