Nemanja Matic completes Manchester United move - How he compares to the midfielders at Old Trafford

What does the Chelsea midfielder bring to Manchester United? Sport360's Brendon Netto discusses.

Brendon Netto
by Brendon Netto
30th July 2017

article:30th July 2017

Reports emerged on Sunday that Nemanja Matic has completed his medical ahead of a move to Manchester United.

Jose Mourinho has been in the market for a holding midfielder all summer and has finally landed on a tried and tested option in the Serbian.


Matic and Mourinho won the Premier League title together at Chelsea in the Portuguese’s second term at the club and are set to work together again.

Here’s a look at how he compares to the midfielder department at United and how he can improve it.

PASSING

While distribution isn’t necessarily Matic’s forte, he is a reliable passer and that is as crucial an attribute as any as a holding midfielder. It’s all well and good winning possession, but if you’re wasteful on the ball, it doesn’t help the team.

In that regard, Matic boasts a fine pass success rate of 87.7%, bettered only by Michael Carrick (89%) among the United midfielders.

Having N’Golo Kante as his midfield partner last season, Matic was able to venture further up the pitch, something he wasn’t accustomed to. However, it did lead him to registering an unprecedented seven assists in the league. That’s more than any United player, let alone midfielder.

The Serbian is no playmaker though. He did manage to stride forward and find the occasional decisive pass but he’s not going to carve a defence open on a regular basis. He managed only 26 key passes last term but fortunately, that’s not an area in which he is expected to excel.

Instead, Paul Pogba and even Herrera to an extent will be granted more freedom to unlock the opposition’s defence with Matic anchoring the midfield.


DEFENSIVE DUTIES

The Serbia international has been recruited for the sole purpose of bringing the right balance to United’s midfield. To do that, he needs to shield the defence to the best of his abilities, allowing players around him to flourish.

While Matic is renowned for his defensive displays in the middle of the park, his stats in the league last season aren’t particularly impressive. Herrera was by far the superior ball-winner, notching up 84 tackles and 82 interceptions compared to the former Benfica player’s figures of 52 and 50.

To an extent, Kante’s dogged nature and superior defensive attributes did limit Matic’s contribution in that regard, something the player himself has alluded to.

“Since Kante came, he’s worked more behind me and his job is what I have done for the last two years,” Matic said last season.

He was almost a spectator at times with Kante rushing over to neutralise virtually every threat. At United though, the onus would fall on him to do that job and that should see him contribute more in a defensive capacity.

Indeed, he managed 84 tackles and 67 interceptions in the 2015/16 season while boasting 128 tackles and 73 interceptions the year before.

VERDICT

He is far from a marquee name but that seems to be the theme of United’s transfer business this summer. Romelu Lukaku although coming for a huge fee, is a proven Premier League goalscorer and his arrival almost guarantees United goals.

Their pursuit of Ivan Perisic has a similar feel to it. He’s capable of beating a man, is consistent with his crossing and clinical in front of goal but won’t exactly take your breath away and is pushing on at the age of 28.

However, given that apart from Michael Carrick, the team now looks to the likes of Antonio Valencia, Hererra and even Pogba for leadership, means that United should be targeting players who are experienced, accomplished and reliable.

That’s exactly what Matic is; a reliable soldier, a solid buy.


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