This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
According to ESPN, Nemanja Matic is keen on having discussions with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer over his long-term future at Old Trafford following interest from Serie A giants Inter and AC Milan.
The report claims Inter are interested in a package deal to lure the 6 foot 4 midfielder to the San Siro and are willing to offer United £10m plus midfielder Radja Nainggolan.
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On paper, it looks like a deal that United should definitely consider. However, digging deeper into what Matic brings to the table – despite his recent struggles – shows that United could be making a grave mistake in allowing the Serbian international to go.
One of the most formidable holding midfield players of this decade, Matic was a monstrous presence in the middle of the park for Chelsea. Strong, powerful and with an exceptional reading of the game. At United, he’s been slow, laboured and a shadow of his former self.
His drop-off in form saw him register just 1.8 tackles and 1.1 interceptions per game last year, but even then the Serbian averaged better numbers than the likes of Fred, Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba. Only the recently departed Ander Herrera’s averages of 2.5 tackles and 1.7 interceptions per game eclipsed what Matic produced.
And perhaps therein lies the problem. United’s unwillingness to match the reported wage demands of Herrera has seen the tough-tackling Spaniard leave Old Trafford for the riches on offer at PSG. Losing Matic on top would rob the side of a natural defensive midfielder, whose first thoughts are to break up the opposition’s attacks and pass it into the forward players with a minimum of fuss.
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Indeed, that ability to dictate the tempo from deep meant Matic also had the highest number of average passes amongst any of his central midfield teammates and boasted the second-highest pass accuracy. The 30-year-old is perhaps the only option in United’s current squad who appears to be comfortable receiving the ball from his centre-halves or dropping in to make a three at the back.
For all the glitz and glam of wanting to score goals and put on a great show going forward, recent Premier League title winners all have common theme; a truly great holding midfielder. Fernandinho, N’Golo Kante, and before him Matic. Accepting Inter’s offer would rid United of the one proven entity within the squad capable of leading them to Premier League success.