When Nemanja Matic was impressively rising onto the scene during his three years as a Benfica player, the European football experts and well-known journalists of the beautiful game were mentioning him as the perfect defensive-midfielder for one of the big clubs in Europe. In January 2014, Chelsea became seriously active in the transfer window and brought him back to Stamford Bridge and simply never looked back.
With the help of Chelsea and Jose Mourinho’s style of play, the Serbian international became one of the best defensive-midfielders in Europe, as his aggression and physical presence allows him to prevent the opposition’s counter-attacks to be taken into the final third of the pitch. Also, he provided the ideal cover in front of the centre-back partnership of Gary Cahill and John Terry.
However, since completing his move to Manchester United for a figure of £40million in the summer of 2017, he looks to be a player that is clearly past his best and cannot keep up with the intensity of the Premier League. Not only that, he is still somehow being seen as a vital individual by Mourinho himself, despite not being able to complete the much needed interceptions and tackles convincingly.
Game by game, the Old Trafford faithful are increasingly wondering if Mourinho’s favourites in Matic, Ashley Young, Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku get away with below-par performances without any actual criticism. Due to this, the Manchester United supporters are witnessing a style of play that seriously lacks movement on and off the ball, pace on the flanks and creativity itself.
At the age of 30, Matic is showing that he is a player that does not have the capability to add further abilities to his skillset, and it’s a surprise that he is still being utilised ahead of the likes Ander Herrera and Fred, two midfielders that have shown glimpses and small moments of what they can offer to the side. It’s a huge disappointment that he is yet to be dropped to the bench by the manager.
Here are the three individuals that Manchester United could target to replace Matic…
During the summer transfer window, Manchester United were one of the few clubs that were linked with Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozovic, someone who is effectively starting to prove himself at club and country level. The 26-year-old has become a key individual for an Inter Milan side that were on the decline for over the last five years or so, but are now looking to get back to their best as a whole.
From protecting the backline to helping the side move the ball forward into the final third of the pitch, Brozovic has impressively improved over the last couple of years, which has allowed him to achieve over 100 Serie A appearances for Inter Milan and 42 caps for the Croatia national team. Overall, he has the mindset and crucial quality to play for a big European club, including Manchester United.
Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombele has arrived onto the scene of French football recently, and he is already proving to everyone that he is perfectly made for the defensive-midfield role. Making a name for himself thanks to his impeccable first touch as well as his dribbling ability, he is starting to mainly play as a box-to-box midfielder as he currently enjoys plays alongside Lucas Tousart in the centre of midfield.
With Ligue 1 growing a reputation for producing terrific individuals within the defensive-midfield department, it’s no secret that Ndombele has the perfect potential to turn into one of the best players in his position in Europe. Although he may not have the natural instincts to intercept the ball and tackle the opposition, his reading of the game and his outstanding stamina will allow him to be in the right place at the right time.
Although he will be hugely overlooked as a player because he plays for Leicester City, Wilfred Ndidi is showing on a regular basis of how to be a commanding and influential defensive-midfielder in the Premier League. Compared to the rest of the defensive-midfielders in the league, the Nigerian international has superbly completed the third most interceptions (21) and third most tackles (35).
The only issue for any potential buyers is that Ndidi himself signed a six-year deal with Leicester City in the summer, which does imply that he is committed to the football club that brought him to England in January 2017. However, his ambitions and objectives could change anytime soon, especially if he wants to trophies every year and is aiming to play for one of the best teams in Europe.