There are a number of transfer rumours that tend to rumble on all summer, with Naby Keita to Liverpool among the real sagas this time around. Another deal that has been touted for some time and has once again come to the fore sees Nemanja Matic tipped with a reunion with Jose Mourinho at Manchester United.
The Serbian is expected to leave Stamford Bridge this summer following the arrival of Tiemoue Bakayoko and Old Trafford had seemed his most likely destination. Reports of a move had stalled, however, with the likes of Juventus and Inter both credited with an interest, but it now seems a switch to the Red Devils could still be on the cards.
The links seem to have divided the fan bases of both United and Chelsea, with the former unsure whether Matic would add a great deal to what they already have, while the latter would rather avoid selling to a direct rival.
There’s little question that the Blues can now afford to offload the 28-year-old, but is Mourinho better off looking elsewhere in an attempt to add variety and, pertinently, energy to his midfield?
Similar to Herrera
Matic, after all, has a number of the same qualities as Ander Herrera, though there can be no debate as to which player enjoyed the better season last time around.
Indeed, the Chelsea man has arguably not been at his best for a while, and the fact that he fell out of favour under the current United boss during his final months in charge in West London makes the Manchester giants’ interest somewhat baffling.
It should be said that Mourinho has also been able to get the best out of the middle man in the past, with Matic excelling upon his return to Chelsea from Benfica, but he’s been upstaged at the Bridge for some time now.
While he had a stronger season under Conte last time out than during the ‘Special One’s’ ill-fated farewell campaign, the Serbia international’s performances paled in comparison to those of N’Golo Kante and also Cesc Fabregas in the second half of the season.
In 35 appearances, of which 30 were starts, the midfielder – who turns 29 next week – registered an impressive 7 assists, though a flurry of six had all come before the start of December.
He had looked rejuvenated immediately after the switch in formation but in truth while those around him went from strength to strength, Matic was one of very few that wasn’t really profiting from Conte’s tactics as the season drew on.
His form dipped to allow Fabregas the chance to reclaim a place in the manager’s plans and while an assist and goal in the final few weeks of the campaign – his solitary league strike of the season – saw Matic end on something of a high, the Italian had seemingly made up his mind.
Where Fabregas was once seen as the expendable asset in the middle ground, the Serbian’s place in Conte’s plans became uncertain.
Matic lacks the dynamism or the inventiveness
He doesn’t offer the dynamism that Kante or new recruit Bakayoko can or the invention of Fabregas. His figures for dribbles (0.8), tackles (1.5) and interceptions (1.4) per game last season were all at a low since his return to the capital, as Matic began to look a little leggy.
Kante’s arrival seemed to offer him a reprieve having been caught out of position at times in the club’s dismal 2015/16 campaign, relinquishing him of some of the defensive responsibilities, but it ended up exposing the fact that the Serbian wasn’t offering a great deal to the team besides.
Should a move to United materialise then Matic would likely rotate with new club captain Carrick and eventually replace the veteran, who has also lacked a little mobility for years.
However, where the 35-year-old makes up for a lack of pace with his understanding of where to be to prevent opposition attacks, the Chelsea man isn’t really that type of player to sit back out of possession and take the ball from the defence when in it.
Moreover, his passing isn’t as incisive as the Red Devils skipper, and while an 87.7% accuracy last season was strong, Carrick boasted a figure of 89% whilst tending to look for a forward option more often.
Matic is a very strong player, of that there should be no doubt, but his regression in recent years should be treated with caution from United’s perspective. Technically he is still as capable as ever but physically the Serbian has seemed a little off the pace at times in recent years.
A move to Serie A may actually be a better fit at this point in his career, while Mourinho should perhaps cast the net a little further to find an heir to Michael Carrick.
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