Will Nemanja Mati? improve Manchester United?
Finally, Jose Mourinho has got his man and brought one of his trusted players to Manchester United from Chelsea in Nemanja Mati?. The popular Serbian international midfielder was touted to move away from Stamford Bridge since the end of the previous Premier League campaign.
Along with United, Serie A side Juventus were also believed to be interested in the midfielder but were thrown off by the high price tag on his head. There is no doubt that the defensive midfielder is an upgrade on what Manchester United previously had in the midfield. The big question mark will, however, be on the cost of the player and why Manchester United were happy to take a player that Antonio Conte did not feel was at a good enough level to play for the Premier League Champions.
The signing of Mati? will certainly please manager Jose Mourinho who had only last week stated he would be happy with one more signing, stating that a holding midfielder was his priority. The introduction of the former Blues midfielder has been met with open arms by Manchester United fans, so they obviously feel he is a good acquisition to the club as well.
Tactically, this signing could be a blessing for the team, allowing Mourinho to field a 4-3-3 formation and unshackling the talents of Paul Pogba from a central position, allowing Mati? and potentially Ander Herrera to operate from a deeper position. Mati? will certainly provide more protection to the central defenders, something that Manchester United lacked last season with no real holding midfielder screening the defence.
When watching the Serbian midfielder, it is evident that he knows his limits; he is not going to play defence splitting passes or a pin point diagonal pass from his central position, however his 7 assists last campaign was a very decent return for a player not known for such attributes. He will also bring further physical presence to the team, and when you consider the likes of Eric Bailly, Paul Pogba, Antonio Valencia, and Victor Lindelof to name a few. So to add the presence of the 6’4 central midfielder amongst this team can only be of benefit to the team in different situations.
With the positives that Mati? will bring to Manchester United, there still has to be the question of why Chelsea were more than willing to let him go. Naturally, the singing of Tiemoue Bakayoko is considered an upgrade on partnering Kante in the middle of the park, perhaps providing more protection all over the pitch for Chelsea.
It has to be pinpointed the inconsistency of Mati? -- especially since returning to English football -- would have played a massive role. In Chelsea’s title winning season under the leadership of Mourinho, the displays of Mati? were simply top class, proving himself to among the best in the world in his position. However, the Serbian midfielder was lacklustre in the following season where the West Londoners made a mess of their title defence.
Consequently, Mourinho was sacked and Chelsea endured a horrendous campaign by their own high standards. The arrival of Conte during the summer of 2016 was another opportunity for Mati? to establish himself in the heart of the Chelsea midfield, which he did and during the first half of last season, he formed a formidable partnership with Kante at the heart of the midfield.
The second part of the season was a different story however; Mati? still played a massive part in the title winning season, but because of the dip in performances he was dropped to the bench for more games and was not anywhere near as influential as he previously was. The former Benfica man does have a lethargic approach when it comes to playing the game; his mannerism on the pitch is not one of authority or of control.
Certain games would pass by and on occasion would think was Mati? playing? For all the qualities he will bring to Manchester United, teams playing against them will still fancy their chances of getting down the sides to attack against them as moving across the pitch is certainly not one of the strongest parts of Matic’s game.
The signing of Mati? is one that Mourinho certainly needed as the team needs a holding midfielder. Can Mati? be the answer to this problem in the Manchester United team? Mourinho will have to keep the player at the top of his game to really prove doubters wrong.
Time will tell if the deal was worth it, but the £40 million transfer fee spent on the Serbian can be deemed as overspending despite the fees the players are going for in the current market, especially in English football. There are certainly more marketable, younger players across Europe who could do the role that Mourinho is looking for in current Manchester United team.