Nemanja Matic's time at Manchester United ​looked to be coming to an end earlier this season, with the midfielder struggling for minutes. 

The Serb started just two of United's opening 19 Premier League games, although he did miss a fair chunk of these through injury. 

Matic was seemingly set for the exit door in January, after failing to make his way back into the squad, let alone the starting lineup under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Speculation surrounding an exit intensified after he missed the chance to attend the club's charity gala at Old Trafford, instead having dinner with Patrick Cutrone back in November. 

UEFA Europa League"AZ Alkmaar v Manchester United"

Just a matter of days later and Matic was once again dominating the headlines, this time leaving training after just 24 minutes despite filming himself as he prepared for a day of work. The likes of Tottenham, West Ham and Atletico Madrid were all interested, and with his contract expiring in the summer, it appeared as though another club would take advantage of the situation.

But what a difference a few months can make. 

Following a hugely impressive string of performances at the base of ​Manchester United's midfield in recent times, the club have decided ​to trigger a one-year extension option in Matic's contract. He could even stay longer.

His importance to this Man Utd team can be summed up with one very simple statistic. In the 22 games he has played in this season in all competitions for the Red Devils, they have kept 14 clean sheets. In stark contrast, in the 25 games he has missed this campaign, United have managed just the six. 

The difference is alarming. 

Since the Red Devils' 2-0 win away to Burnley towards the end of December 2019, ​Matic has gone on to start seven of United's next eight league games - playing the full 90 minutes in six of those seven. 

The 31-year-old has excelled in United's impressive unbeaten run of late. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men have gone 11 matches without defeat, most recently picking up a ruthless 5-0 win over LASK in the Europa League. Indeed, this win saw them match the 11-game unbeaten run they enjoyed when Solskjaer first took over at United. 

Juan Mata

In these 11 games, the Red Devils have scored 29 goals and conceded just twice. 

United have been tight at the back, while they have also been finding the goal with great regularity. 

As a result, players such as Fred, who has improved enormously this season, new arrival Bruno Fernandes and others have all received huge praise for their contributions - and rightly so. In fact, Fernandes has been so good that he was named the ​Premier League ​Player of the Month for February, despite only joining on January 30. 

However, Matic is the unsung hero. 

Nemanja Matic

The defensive midfielder has provided a platform for his teammates to play. He is not the fastest player in the world, not by any means, but his intelligence and ability to read the game allows him to nip in and intercept a pass, before getting his side on the front foot. 

Matic's awareness as a defensive midfielder is impressive, but equally, his immediate thought in more recent times when winning the ball back is to think positively. The number 31 spots the runs made by those ahead of him, and when possible, plays an inch-perfect pass into the feet of another player. His work behind the scenes often goes unnoticed and he deserves more recognition for what he does. 

Equally, Matic has proven to be a key figure and leader in this Man Utd team. The Serb is often seen pointing and talking to his teammates, with the intention of rectifying something he thinks isn't working during a match. 

Luke Shaw,Tom Davies,Nemanja Matic

During United's 1-1 draw away to Everton recently, Luke Shaw was involved in a heated exchange with Tom Davies. Before the situation could escalate, Matic was the first man to step in and stop Shaw from reacting - and potentially getting sent off.  

It's clear to see that Matic is a key part of this squad, both on and off the field. United may very well look for a long-term replacement in the summer and this would be justified, but the club have made an excellent decision in triggering the one-year extension in his contract. 

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