“Nemanja Matic, Chelsea FC defender” (CC BY 2.0) by Ben Sutherland
Chelsea’s dependable defensive midfielder, Nemanja Matic, is reportedly ‘desperate’ to team up again with former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho and line up in the heart of the Manchester United midfield in 2017/18.
Mourinho is seeking a reliable holding midfielder to provide the anchor and protection for the United back line, given that the likes of Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial will be given license to roam in the final third and support new frontman, Romelu Lukaku.
Although Michael Carrick has been made club captain following the departure of Wayne Rooney back to boyhood club, Everton, the 35-year-old is unlikely to play every minute of the season given his age and a swoop for Matic would seem like a very sensible move from Mourinho; weakening title rivals Chelsea in the process.
Matic’s Chelsea future would also seem up in the air at present, with Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas already given assurances regarding playing time for the upcoming campaign by the Blues’ charismatic boss, Antonio Conte. However, with the Stamford Bridge club also on the verge of completing a £35m move for Monaco ace, Tiemoue Bakayoko, it appears that Matic is likely to fall even further down the midfield pecking order this term. The immediate success of N’Golo Kante in midfield – arriving last summer from 2016 champions, Leicester City, was also another clear nail in the coffin for Matic’s Chelsea future.
The former Benfica anchorman has been in negotiations with Chelsea regarding a new contract during the last 18 months, but these discussions appear to have reached a stalemate, with Matic tempted by a move away from West London and Conte already scouring for the Serbian’s replacement.
Some reports in the British press suggest that Matic has been made to train alone during the start of the 2017/18 pre-season, largely due to his desire to join their bitter title rivals, although Blues insiders have sought to smooth the situation over by intimating his solo training sessions are to do with a minor injury niggle rather than anything more sinister.
Should United prevail with a bid for the street-wise Serb, it’s likely the club will have to stump up close to £40m to complete the deal – a sizeable fee considering he is nearing his 29th birthday and a great return on Chelsea’s £21m investment when they resigned Matic from Benfica in 2014.
Defensively, Mourinho was beginning to steady the ship at Old Trafford in 2016/17. For sports punters and accumulator fanatics, United certainly became draw specialists on home soil and that was eventually to prove their undoing in the title race. Weekly advice on 2017/18 Premier League accumulators will be freely available with help here from experts that regularly get involved in the Sky Sports Super 6 prediction game. It will be interesting to see how this summer’s signings affect the balance throughout the United side, with supporters undoubtedly keen to see more flair on show this term; and more high-scoring games for those score predictions.
So, what system would Mourinho favour if he’s able to get Matic into the building? In essence, he would seem tailor-made to sit in alongside Ander Herrera as a holding duo in a 4-2-3-1 formation, bringing the best out of the likes of Pogba and Mkhitaryan, as we suggested earlier. However, he could also be utilised in the heart of a 4-3-3 system, shielding the centre backs and giving Pogba the freedom to maraud down the left-side of midfield which he did to distinction for Juventus.
Matic also has the ability to be a goal threat too. Who could forget his long-range blockbuster in the 2017 FA Cup final? Some pundits labelled that strike, which turned the contest in Chelsea’s favour against London rivals Tottenham, as one of the best cup final goals ever. The Serb’s ability to arrive late on the edge of the area could also prove useful, especially if he can weigh in with 4-5 goals himself throughout the course of the season.
However, on the whole, this transfer certainly still has some way to go before being finalised. Chelsea are privately bitterly disappointed at being gazumped by United over the signing of Lukaku and handing one of their longest-serving midfielders to Mourinho’s men could be viewed by the Blues’ faithful as a move that only makes the Red Devils stronger.
A dime for Antonio Conte’s thoughts, anyone?