Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Nemanja Matic – The Unlikely Manchester United Hero

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The easiest and perhaps the most convenient way to describe Nemanja Matic would be – ‘The Shadow Man’.

Never Seen, Always There

Never really getting the acclaim he fully deserves, the inconspicuous Serbian is a person chasing results and not praise. But when a chance to send a clear message to those diminishing his role in a team that lifted the Premier League trophy in the 2016/17 season presented itself, Nemanja Matic was more than happy to grab a firm hold of it.

He insisted there was nothing to prove at Chelsea but even the person as grounded as he is must have felt a sting of betrayal in his back when Blues decided to discard him last summer. Speculation that Matic wanted to leave Chelsea because he didn’t feel appreciated despite helping the team lift four major trophies during his time in London was never confirmed, however.

The Serbian ultimately left the Stamford Bridge Blues and ran into Jose Mourinho’s warm embrace in a £35 million summer deal determined to prove he ‘deserves’ to wear the Manchester United shirt at Old Trafford. The sceptical supporters who lay into the Red Devil’s decision to bring a robust defence-oriented midfielder to the Theatre of Dreams were quickly persuaded by Matic’s commitment, work rate and determination – a set of values that are basic ingredients of Nemanja Matic’s character.

The Silent Leader

At the same time, the Chelsea supporters quickly realised how much they miss in not having Nemanja Matic pulling the strings and holding the lines with his somewhat ugly but rather effective and valuable performances.

The Serbian wasted no time in establishing himself as Jose Mourinho’s first choice midfielder at Old Trafford.

Injury problems facilitated his integration, whereas it’s down to the strong performances that he managed to keep hold of a starting berth with Red Devils.

After 29 Premier League games for Manchester United, Matic’s numbers are impressive. With half of the aerial duels won the former Chelsea midfielder is a controlling presence in the centre of the park and the point of him being a class-act player for Manchester United was once again made exactly against his former club.

With pass accuracy of 92% and 53% of duels won, Matic was one of the best-rated players at the game and a man who made all the difference after being slipped a note from his boss.

He maintained the same level last time out, in a come from behind 3-2 win at Crystal Palace. As a match-winner he stood at 86% pass accuracy and 47% of duels won. The Serb took part in 4 defensive actions and charged forward when Jose Mourinho decided to switch the tactics and chase the result at Selhurst Park.

Pogba’s Antipode

In a simple comparison with club’s record signing and through a descriptive narrative used by Garry Neville to lay into Paul Pogba’s disastrous first-half performance at Selhurst Park, Matic’s display was a clear opposite from ‘being a joke’.

“It’s like everything he does is all for YouTube or Instagram video. It’s like it’s not serious – like it’s a joke to him, the way he goes about things. There is no wonder Jose Mourinho left him out in the last few weeks a number of times,”, Neville commented.

At the other end of the spectrum is Nemanja Matic with his no-nonsense approach.

He may not seem like the most attractive player who’d like in your team but his rational decision-making and level-headedness are turning out to be Manchester United’s biggest assets at a moment in time when all the bannermen – such as Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and poor man Pogba – are failing to deliver.

Matic’s first goal in a Manchester United shirt came as a well-deserved reward for a hard-working man who’s putting in all he’s got to help the club’s cause.

He is a massive 9/1 betting odds to repeat a goalscoring feat in the grandiose derby against Liverpool next Saturday but who are we to deny him a fighting chance?  


Milos Markovic

Formerly a Chief Editor at the largest sports site in Serbia, Milos Markovic is an avid football writer who contributes to a variety of online football magazines - most prominently and His feature articles, editorials, interviews and match analyses have provided informed opinion and views, helping the football aficionados keep up to date on relevant events in world football.



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