With Nemanja Matic’s protracted transfer to Manchester United likely to be confirmed later today, it could prove the best bit of business Jose Mourinho has done at Old Trafford thus far.
While current defensive midfield stalwart Michael Carrick is rightly beloved by Red Devils fans, the 36-year-old can’t keep going forever. And while he remains a classy performer, there’s reason to believe Matic can not only take over his role – but also become a future United great.
He’s a regular creator of chances
While Carrick has managed four assists since the start of the 2013-14 season, Matic managed seven in the Premier League alone last term, a figure higher than any current Man United player mustered.
That isn’t so much a negative reflection on Carrick or the players around him as it is context for a stunning achievement from the Serbian – who was a prolific chance creator from a deep-lying midfield role, setting up crucial goals in wins over the likes of Tottenham and the Red Devils.
With Jose Mourinho’s men recording just 54 Premier League goals last term – a number fewer than AFC Bournemouth – they desperately need an added creative spark in midfield, as well as some extra steel.
Matic, whose tough-tackling approach was matched by an 88% pass completion rate last term, can single-handedly solve both of those issues.
Title-winning experience could prove invaluable
While the Old Trafford crop of Sir Alex Ferguson’s epoch were well-drilled in lifting league titles, the club’s current four-year drought means that players with Prem winners’ medals are now the minority in M16.
That’s an area where Matic could prove invaluable, if his future employers do find themselves in a title tussle at the business end of the season. As well as winning the league with Chelsea twice, he’s also managed a Primeira Liga title with Benfica in 2014 – as they pipped Sporting Lisbon in a tense title race.
Add to that the fact he knows how to win honours in a Mourinho set-up, and the Serbian seems tailor-made for United.
They’re weakening a rival
While this is unlikely to have massively influenced the decision to buy the Sabac native, there’s no doubt the loss of the 28-year-old will be keenly felt by the Blues, with the two-time Serbian Player of the Year one of their key performers last term.
From his stunning winner against Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup Semi-Final to a series of imperious displays against Chelsea’s title rivals, he’ll be very difficult to replace.
Yes, they have signed Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco, but with just one stellar season under his belt, and no prior Prem experience, the Frenchman’s long-term impact in West London is hard to predict.
So, with this move weakening the Stamford Bridge squad and bolstering United’s, could that be the pendulum on which this title race will swing?
There’s 10/3 on offer for the Red Devils to lift the Premier League trophy in the coming campaign.
And they’ll be keen to get off to a winning start, with 1/4 for Mou’s men to beat West Ham United at the Theatre of Dreams.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing