There was a point in Manchester United's 2019/20 campaign during which they seemed to be on course for a mid-table finish. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men then dipped into the transfer market to sign Bruno Fernandes, sparking a brilliant upturn in form for the Red Devils.
A crucial and under-appreciated factor in the 14-game unbeaten Premier League run that followed was the resurgence of Nemanja Matic. The Serb appeared to be on the brink of an exit from Old Trafford but ended up playing his way back into the side with a string of brilliant performances.
Playing alongside either Fred or Scott McTominay in Solskjaer's preferred double pivot behind Fernandes, Matic seemed to roll back the years to deliver one superb display after another for Manchester United. He impressed the club to a point where they offered him a contract extension in the summer.
However, it is no secret that Matic — set to turn 33 by the time the next Premier League season kicks off — is no longer the force he once was. The ex-Chelsea man can no longer play week in week out at the highest level for Manchester United, and is better suited as a squad player to keep him fresh for certain games.
Matic has shown that he can still be of great use to Manchester United, for whom he's already appeared over 150 times. He drops deep, recycles possession to spray it around effortlessly, and screens his defence without breaking a sweat when he's fit. That being said, they need to find an ideal long-term successor for the imposing 32-year-old as Solskjaer continues to revamp his squad.
Here are five potential options for Manchester United to consider.
5 replacements for Manchester United's Nemanja Matic
#5 Eduardo Camavinga | Stade Rennes
Eduardo Camavinga is the youngest player on this list by some distance, but that is also a factor that makes him an attractive choice for the Red Devils. The Rennes wonderkid is one of the most sought-after young players in the world, and it isn't too difficult to see why.
The Rennes man plays with a sense of composure and understanding of the game that belies his age. Camavinga is a clean tackler of the ball and has won 60 of his 96 tackles in Ligue 1 so far, which is one of the best success rates in Ligue 1. The 18-year-old has also completed 1.74 dribbles per 90 this season.
The Manchester United target has played alongside a more experienced player in Steven N'Zonzi at Rennes, so he does have some way to go in order to develop into a specialist defensive midfielder. However, Camavinga has all the tools to develop into one of the very best in the world, and is being closely watched by the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
#4 Boubakary Soumare | LOSC Lille
Camavinga's compatriot and fellow Ligue 1 product Boubakary Soumare is the next player on this list. Soumare is currently enjoying arguably his best campaign in France as he's a crucial cog in the Lille side, who are hopeful of winning their first league title since 2010/11.
The 22-year-old is an excellent dribbler who is capable of recycling possession efficiently in the middle of the park. His 88% dribble completion rate is only bettered by two players in Ligue 1, and has averaged an impressive 7.09 progressive passes this season with 0.74 key passes per 90.
If reports are to be believed, Soumare is likely to leave France in the near future and has been linked with a move to the Premier League for some time now. Should he be available in the transfer market, Soumare will be an excellent choice for Manchester United to consider as he could add a different dimension to their midfield options.