Nemanja Matic Revival Must Not Stop Man Utd Signing Another Midfielder This Summer

Jul 15, 2020, 11:09 AM GMT+1
Nemanja Matic
Nemanja Matic recently signed a new three-year deal with Manchester United | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Despite looking as good as sold heading into the January transfer window after making just three appearances until the turn of the new year, Nemanja Matic has enjoyed an extraordinary turnaround of form at Manchester United.

The Serbian has hulked up and forced himself back into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's plans at United, becoming key to his side's run of 18 games unbeaten that stretches back to January.

While many see January signing Bruno Fernandes as the new cult of personality behind United's resurgence, it isn't quite that simple. Matic has looked completely revitalised in his deeper role in midfield and is more frequently contributing to attacks with sharper forward passes, while also acting as a brick wall in front of their defence.

Nemanja Matic, Dominic Solanke
Matic was excellent in United's win against Bournemouth | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Matic's improved output has actually allowed the likes of Fernandes and Paul Pogba to support United in attack and finish off low-block sides with ease; something they severely struggled with previously. However, while all seems rosy, there are still limitations to the 31-year-old's game, and it became much more glaring in United's draw against Southampton.

The Red Devils had the chance to leapfrog Chelsea and Leicester and put themselves into third place with a win, but a last-minute equaliser from Southampton's Michael Obafemi keeps them in fifth.

The result isn't a complete disaster and it's not quite time to go into meltdown again just yet, but it was a disappointing 90 minutes where United were too naive. It should serve as a warning to the squad that nothing is certain, and prove to Solskjaer that Matic is merely enjoying a purple patch that will disappear under the hectic schedule of Project Restart.

Matic struggled to grab a hold of the game against the Saints, which left United's defence without any cover. His lack of pace - combined with a poor passing performance from several players - allowed Southampton to cause problems centrally and exploit the weaknesses of both Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof.

The visitors ended the game with 53% possession at Old Trafford and managed to try their luck in front of goal eight times, which again reflects United's poor attempts to snuff out the danger. While United looked better after going 2-1 up and had their fair share of chances on the counter, Pogba couldn't find his rhythm and Matic struggled to pick up the pieces. He was stretched by the likes of Nathan Redmond and Danny Ings and was subsequently caught out of position or chasing the game as it passed him by.

United struggled against an impressive Southampton side | DAVE THOMPSON/Getty Images

To draw these conclusions about the Serbian after one poor game following the restart might seem rash, but he struggled significantly with United being put under the cosh. The Red Devils have enjoyed a successful restart thus far due to their dominance every 90 minutes, but without the ball and after being tested by a stronger side, Matic looked troubled.

With the schedule already more demanding than ever and United still in the latter stages of the FA Cup and the Europa League, there are no signs of things slowing down anytime soon. Considering how close the chase is to reach the top four in the Premier League also, it's going to be a gruelling end to the summer for Solskjaer's squad. This won't make it any easier for the Serbian, who may struggle to keep up physically.

This is again more evidence that United must get to work in the transfer market this summer. While the addition of Fernandes to a fully fit United XI makes them look a lot more complete, they lack quality in numbers. This was again proven against Norwich in the FA Cup quarter-final, when a rotated side failed to kill the game off inside 90 minutes.

In order to build on the progress they've made, it's imperative that United add some depth this summer. Jadon Sancho is the name everybody wants to head to Old Trafford, but a smarter signing would be a midfield reinforcement.

The likes of Jack Grealish and Donny van de Beek have been linked in recent months and while both would improve on United's current options when rotating, they only suit attacking roles. United must also consider a young, defensive midfielder, who has the potential to grow into a regular.

Jack Grealish, Matt Targett
Grealish scored at Old Trafford earlier in the season | Stu Forster/Getty Images

22-year-old Ismael Bennacer has impressed in Serie A with AC Milan, but could improve further while rotating with Matic at United. Declan Rice has continually improved over the course of the season and looks destined for a move to a top six club, but West Ham could drive a hard bargain for his signature.

Whoever it is that potentially makes their way to Old Trafford, United must ensure that they adhere to their new policy of younger talents who want to contribute to a project. A younger player who isn't quite yet the finished article would ease the workload off Matic heading into next season, while also picking up invaluable lessons on the training pitch from the experienced Serbian.

Matic undoubtedly still has a huge role to play in an exciting Manchester United side, but it must be reduced heading into next season if Solskjaer wants to get the best out of him.