5 Players who can replace Nemanja Matic at Manchester United

Manchester United v İstanbul Basaksehir: Group H - UEFA Champions League
Manchester United v İstanbul Basaksehir: Group H - UEFA Champions League
Sai Teja

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

Paris Saint-Germain v Stade Rennais FC - 2019 Trophée des Champions
Paris Saint-Germain v Stade Rennais FC - 2019 Trophée des Champions

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

Celtic v LOSC Lille: Group H - UEFA Europa League
Celtic v LOSC Lille: Group H - UEFA Europa League

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.

Also read: Leeds United 0-0 Manchester United: 5 Talking Points as Red Devils drop points at Elland Road | Premier League 2020/21

#3 Kalvin Phillips | Leeds United

Leeds United v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League
Leeds United v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League

English international Kalvin Phillips has been part of the Leeds United engine room that has propelled them to top-flight football, and is one of the more interesting deep-lying players in the Premier League. Phillips combines a great sense of positional awareness with his high-octane, aggressive style of play to impose himself on opposition midfields.

His ability to cover large spaces in the middle helps Leeds' attack-oriented style of play to succeed, allowing them to commit bodies forward, with Phillips pulling the strings from the middle. He averages 11.5 successful long balls along with 2.49 tackles and 20.7 pressures per 90. His displays have even garnered interest from England manager Gareth Southgate, who handed him seven caps so far.

The 'Yorkshire Pirlo' is the glue that holds Leeds' midfield together and delivered another huge performance to display his quality in their most recent league game against Manchester United at Elland Road. It might be difficult for Leeds to sell their star player to their fierce rivals, but he could prove to be an excellent option for Solskjaer's men.

#2 Wilfred Ndidi | Leicester City

Leicester City v Chelsea - Premier League
Leicester City v Chelsea - Premier League

Wilfried Ndidi is, perhaps, the closest Manchester United can find to a specialist defensive midfielder among the players on this list. Ndidi was brought in to add more steel to the Foxes' midfield, but his impact since his arrival has only seemed to grow with every passing game.

The Nigerian international has turned into a monumental player for Brendan Rodgers' Leicester City, constantly winning the ball back with ease and recycling possession in the middle. His ability to screen his defence has benefited them to an incredible degree, affording the likes of Youri Tielemans and their attackers more freedom. He's won 54 of his 84 tackles this season along with 37.5 pressures per 90, which are some of the best figures in the Premier League.

Leicester City demanded a world record fee from Manchester United the last time the two sides negotiated for a player, so it remains to be seen if they can lure Ndidi away from the King Power. Should they manage to do so, however, the 25-year-old would undoubtedly be a fantastic option to replace Nemanja Matic.

#1 Declan Rice | West Ham

West Ham United v Sheffield United - Premier League
West Ham United v Sheffield United - Premier League

Heading into the summer window, there is no player better suited to Manchester United's requirements in midfield than Declan Rice. The Englishman has been one of the most impressive midfielders in the Premier League this season and has been at the heart of the Hammers' push for UEFA Champions League football.

The 22-year-old ticks all the right boxes for Manchester United. Rice is a tough-tackling defensive midfielder whose ability on the ball has been excellent so far. The Hammers star's considerable Premier League experience will ensure that the club get a player who doesn't need time to adapt to the league.

He's also shown incredible mentality and leadership in the middle of the park, gradually taking over the captain's responsibilities from club legend Mark Noble. This is a crucial factor that makes Rice an excellent choice, given he could be tasked with replacing one of the most experienced players in the United squad.

Rice has put in a string of incredibly mature displays and will certainly provide some composure to Manchester United's chaotic midfield. The Red Devils are already believed to be in talks for Rice, with Jesse Lingard potentially going the other way as part of the deal. If they do manage to sign him, the physically imposing Englishman would be the most ideal replacement for Matic, and at 22, he is certainly a long-term option for Manchester United.

Also read: 5 Great footballers who played for multiple national teams

Edited by Sai Teja
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