Nemanja Matić is back to his defensive best under Ole Gunnar Solskjær

There was a time not too long ago when Manchester United fans were increasingly agitated by Nemanja Matić’s poor performances under José Mourinho. In the Portuguese manager’s third and final season in charge, the Serbia international was struggling emphatically to keep up with the standard that was expected of him.

Matić was signed by Mourinho for the Red Devils in the summer of 2017, promised to be their midfield enforcer that would take over from Michael Carrick. In truth, Man Utd always needed a player to do the screening job in front of the defence for a number of years with the Englishman’s legs tiring, and this was a clever and astute purchase that came to a level of surprise to some given Chelsea’s willingness to sell.

The Serbian has never been the loudest player on the pitch in terms of his standout performances, but he has seldom let his standard drop a noticeable level – especially under Mourinho at Chelsea. He was a pivotal figure in the Blues’ title win in the 2016-17 season and received stark plaudits from around the game for his immeasurable reliability.

With the involvement of the World Cup for his country in Russia last summer, Matić returned to the fold for his club in a battered state. The 30 year old was injured and carrying niggles, which prevented him from getting up to match speed before the start of the season and having missed out on the opening two matches.

But with Mourinho’s quick and painful downfall, Matić’s performances on the pitch quickly deteriorated. He was no longer seen as an essential cog in Man United’s midfield, but instead a gangly, clumsy player that was making all the wrong decisions at crucial times. He was beginning to become a hinderance.

After the sacking of the Portuguese boss, former centre forward Ole Gunnar Solskjær took over and the spirit in the camp was immediately lifted. As if a large weight had been taken off of their shoulders and the players could breathe once again. Matić, too, started to see an increase in the standard of his performances and was beginning to become an integral part of the team once more.

The Serbian, just sitting in front of the defence and acting as their protector, also gave true freedom to Paul Pogba alongside Ander Herrera. Their three-man midfield combination has worked effortlessly so far and has seen their club win nine times from 10 matches in all competitions.

Matić and Pogba have started every single Premier League match since Solskjær took up the reins, which has helped them both improve on their consistency and get the best out of one another.

The Serbian might not be as prolific as some moving forward, but then again, it’s not his job to be. Matić has accepted his defensive-minded role and is excelling in cutting out danger, intercepting play and launching quick counter-attacks by passing the ball swiftly to one of the offensive players ahead of him.

Some players, at 30-years-old, might well have given up in trying to claw their way back into a team as competitive as Manchester United’s, but to Matić’s credit, he has done exceedingly well to hang on to his place. There were many times this season when fans would have wanted someone else in front of the defence, but with the improvement in his game, Matić is leading the player for the job.

At times, the best way to understand if a defensive midfielder is having a good game is if you rarely notice him. They are not ones to stand out from the crowd or get bums off seats; instead, they are players who go about doing the dirty work in a discreet manner and put up a defensive wall in front of his defenders. Matić has done just that.

It was difficult to justify Matić’s starting berth a few months back, but he has risen to the appointment of Solskjær and is now, once again, one of the first names on the team sheet.

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Three ideals upgrades on Nemanja Matic who Manchester United could sign


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…

Marcelo Brozovic

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.

Tanguy Ndombele

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.

Wilfred Ndidi

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.

Paul Pogba must mimic his France performance at Manchester United

pogba-goal-france-australia-world-cupIt might be crazy to wonder whether someone who cost Manchester United 89 million pounds is headed for a breakout year, but that’s precisely where we are with Paul Pogba.

The French international has had a very commanding, consistent display at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and one can’t help but wonder why the consistency is showing for France when it alluded him all season at United.To begin to answer the question, we must look at his season and experience in Manchester.  Continue reading

Serbia’s run in the World Cup comes to a disappointing end


Last night, at the Spartak Stadium, Serbia would either go on to produce their very own chapter within the 2018 World Cup book or they would go home in pure disappointment and frustration. The team they were going up against, was a fearless Brazil side, who were aiming to finish as the leaders of Group E.

Throughout the close fixture, the South American side were more positive on and off the ball and created a number of clear-cut chances whilst Serbia were happy with defending in their own half and aiming to punish the opposition on the counter-attack. To be honest, Brazil found it very difficult to be ruthless in the final third and it was all due to Serbia’s experienced defenders stepping up.

However, Phillipe Coutinho caught Serbia’s defence off guard for a few seconds, and his well-timed pass into the feet of Paulinho was followed by the ball going past Vladimir Stojkovic and into the net. Since then, the game became much more open, which instantly led to Brazil’s second goal in the second half, where Neymar’s cross from a corner was perfectly met by the head of Thiago Silva.

Serbia created some decent chances from time to time during the game, though, most did not bother goalkeeper Alisson Becker at all whilst the rest were adventurous attempts from distance. In the end, the side only completed one shot on target throughout the game, which seriously implies that they lacked pure attacking intent from start till end and had no desire to go for the victory.

In general, Mladen Krstajic’s men were not good enough and should have no complaints about whether they deserved to stay in the competition for longer or not. The only thing that the Serbian players and the manager himself can do, is return to their country and focus on the positives and the negatives as well as work around an idea on how to play proper football that will bring in results.

Many fierce football fans in Belgrade and around the whole world were quite disappointed to see a Serbia squad filled, with the likes of Aleksandar Kolarov, Dusan Tadic, Nemanja Matic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, failing to get past the group stages and could not living up to the potentials of being the dark horses to the win the World Cup like how Colombia, Croatia, Mexico and Russia have done.

Overall, if Serbia want to do well in the future international competitions, they need to understand that all they need is a squad filled with young talents and experienced leaders as well as a clinical forward that can come up with the goals for when his side need him the most. Once they get to this stage, without a doubt they will go on to be effective and dominant on both sides of the pitch.

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Serbia are a win away from qualifying for the knockout stages

Costa Rica v Serbia: Group E - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

After beating Costa Rica in their opening fixture of Group E, through a sweet free-kick from Aleksandar Kolarov, Serbia have a huge chance of qualifying for the knockout stages if they can go on to beat Switzerland on Friday night. This would allow the side to prepare themselves for the next round of the competition as well as not having to worry about the final group match against Brazil.

However, beating Switzerland is not a straightforward procedure at all, which Tite and Brazil found out the hard way as they were prevented the three points due to Vladimir Petkovic’s men being well-organised at the back and also dangerous on the counter-attack. Had the Swiss possessed a clinical striker or two in their squad, they would be seen as one of the dark horses of the World Cup.

Given that Brazil play Costa Rica in the earlier kick-off, Serbia can keep an eye out on the South American side, who they will be facing a couple of days after the Switzerland fixture. If Costa Rica somehow hold Brazil to a draw and Serbia go on to win their match, it would be the first time that the Orovi, have gone past the group stages since 1998 FIFA World Cup which was in France.

The coach is expected to keep things the same and will continue to utilise his 4-2-3-1 setup, where Luka Milivojevic and Nemanja Matic will be playing as the double pivot just ahead of the backline and will be controlling and dominating the game in the middle of the pitch. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic will aim to cause havoc in the number ten role, just behind the lone forward Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Meanwhile on the flanks, Adem Ljajic and Dusan Tadic will be looking to give the opposition’s defenders a really hard time through their movement on and off the ball as well as the burst of pace into the final third of the field. Although both wingers are not seen as consistent goal-scorers, their ultimate intelligence allows them to provide more freedom and space for the full-backs to roam into.

In defence, it is unlikely that there will be any changes – which will mean that back four is going to be Aleksandar Kolarov, Dusko Tosic, Milenkovic and Branislav Ivanovic. The side have well-organised defence, and it is filled with warriors and individuals that have a lot of experience. Switzerland’s attackers will need to put in a lot of hard work if they want to get past Serbia’s solid backline.

For Switzerland – who are currently joint in second place with Brazil – this match should be seen as one that defines whether they are going to go past the group stages or will they be packing their bags very early. If Vladimir Petkovic and his players feel they can go on to beat this Serbia side, they will need certain players like Fabian Schar, Valon Behrami and Xherdan Shaqiri simply at their best.

Overall, Switzerland should not be underestimated, as they are compact and defensively solid despite the lack of goals they have in the squad as a whole. Though, Serbia are expected to get the job done and book their place into the Round of 16, as long as they stick to their same style of play and the players remain focus and consistent, like they were from the first minute of the game till end against Costa Rica.

Predicted line-ups

Serbia – Stojkovic; Ivanovic, Tosic, Milenkovic, Kolarov; Matic, Milivojevic; Tadic, Milinkovic-Savic, Ljajic; Mitrovic.

Switzerland – Sommer; Lichsteiner, Schar, Akanji, Rodriguez; Behrami, Xhaka; Shaqiri, Dzemaili, Zuber; Seferovic.


Serbia 2-1 Switzerland.

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Serbia & Milinkovic-Savic impress in World Cup win over Costa Rica


Mladen Krstajic’s Serbia have started their 2018 World Cup campaign in perfect fashion as they confidently beat Costa Rica through a sublime free-kick from Aleksandar Kolarov in the 56th minute. Had the side’s attack been full of drive and consistency in front of goal, they could have easily secured their first three points of the competition with 15 to 20 minutes of the game still remaining.

As expected, before the game had even started, Costa Rica would sit deep and look forward to making the most on the counter-attack, which allowed Serbia to enjoy the possession of the ball for the majority of the match and it resulted in more action being in the opposition’s half of the pitch.

Most importantly, Serbia’s backline showed how compact and defensively solid they can be during the crucial moments, which cannot be said about most of the other international teams that have already played in their opening fixture of the competition. Also, it cannot be easy for any central midfielder from the opposite team to get past both Luka Milivojevic and Nemanja Matic.

Meanwhile, the wingers in Adem Ljajic and Dusan Tadic were linking play up very well with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who was playing in the number ten role and just behind lone forward Aleksandar Mitrovic. The three attacking players behind the striker were proving to be too much to handle for Costa Rica’s defence, but the finishing and key decision-making simply let Krstajic’s side down a bit.

Milinkovic-Savic was at the centre of attention before and after the game as many football fans around the world were keeping an eye on the Lazio central-midfielder who has been linked with the likes of Juventus, Manchester United and Real Madrid in recent months. The rising talent who was born in Spain had a huge chance of notching a goal and an assist in his first World Cup appearance.

In the end, Mitrovic could not position himself well to convert Milinkovic-Savic’s pass into the back of the next. And, the youngster did not have the composure or ideal self-control to finish the one or two attempts he had from distance. Once the game came to an end, some were very disappointed at the fact that he didn’t offer enough whilst the rest witnessed a young player that is on the rise.e

Costa Rica only had three shots on target throughout the game, which instantly analyses on how defensive-minded they were and how little they created in the final third. Though, the team looked dangerous going forward once Joel Campbell made an appearance from the bench. Coach Oscar Ramirez should certainly build his team around the pace and movement of the 25-year-old.

Serbia approached the game very well, in a way that they would be effective on both sides of the pitch, which many teams have failed to do over the last few days in the competition. Krstajic’s men may have gone into sleep mode from time to time, but they have shown that they are intelligent on and off the ball as well as having the understanding of being in the right place at the right time.

Overall, now that all the teams in Group E have played their first match of the group stages, Serbia will be very happy that they currently lead the group with three points. On paper, the team only need to pick up a victory over Switzerland in order to qualify for the knockout stages, however, they will still be looking forward to facing Brazil as all teams have to face the strong sides soon or later.

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Serbia vs Costa Rica: Can Mladen Krstajic’s men get off to a dream start in Russia?


After an exciting and eventful first couple of days within the World Cup, Group E kicks-off on Sunday afternoon with Serbia facing Costa Rica. On paper, the outcome for the fixture might be easy or hard to predict, but the supporters of the beautiful game of football will know by now that anything can happen.

Costa Rica qualified for the competition by finishing in second place in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, just five points behind group leaders in Mexico, where the group is made up of national teams who are members of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football.

Meanwhile, Serbia showed how dominant and defensively solid they can be when they were working really hard over the last two years to qualify for the World Cup. The side qualified for the competition under Slavoljub Muslin, who was sacked by the Football Association of Serbia due to the fact that he didn’t have faith in the young rising talents and the fact that his football wasn’t appealing at all.

Now, under the management of Mladen Krstajic, not many can produce an educated guess on what to expect from the 44-year-old as he has no pure managerial experience and everything that he is facing on a day-to-day basis is quite new to him. However, Krstajic’s first managerial job is coaching the country he played for, which is the perfect outcome for all parties as he was Muslin’s assistant for quite some time.

Overall, Serbia are certainly in for an exciting adventure as their squad is mixed with old experienced defenders to some young attacking-minded individuals. Given the classy character and personality of Krstajic, his enthusiasm and winning mentality is what the current Serbia squad needs from him the most.

With Group E also including Brazil and Switzerland, it is more than crucial that Serbia get off to a solid start by convincingly winning their first fixture against Costa Rica. On the other hand, if things do not go down as planned, a lot of questions will definitely be asked on how the Serbs will go on to respond back.

Looking a bit into Costa Rica’s results throughout the year, they have only won two of the five friendly matches they have played in 2018. In the games where they suffered defeat in, Oscar Ramirez’s side failed to get into the match quickly and did not have the quality up the pitch to go and attack at the opponents, which meant that they had to play in a back-five system to ensure they concede very little.

Serbia’s key individuals will be none other than Aleksander Kolarov, Nemanja Matic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. The mentioned trio do not play close enough to one other and nor do they link-up play together constantly throughout the match, however, all three of them are an influential figure within the line-up and they have the ability and skill-set to be effective and successful on both sides of the pitch.

On top of that, the experience and aggressiveness of Branislav Ivanovic in the backline will be as crucial as the consistent creativity and impressive vision that Dusan Tadic posses. Given that Costa Rica will potentially sit back and look to counter attack in quick succession, the movement of Kolarov and Tadic in the opponent’s half will be more than important as Serbia will need to take a lot of risks in order to win.

Predicted line-ups

Serbia – Stojkovic; Rukavina, Ivanovic, Milenkovic, Kolarov; Matic, Milivojevic; Tadic, Milinkovic-Savic, Ljajic; Mitrovic.

Costa Rica – Navas; Oviedo, Duarte, Gonzalez, Acosta, Gamboa; Guzman, Borges, Bolanos, Ruiz; Urena.


Serbia 2-1 Costa Rica.

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Can Serbia be a Dark Horse in the World Cup?

Over the last year or so, in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, Serbia showed pure consistency in their results as well as their strength on both sides of the pitch as they finished as leaders of Group C.

However, their results in this year’s friendly matches have been quite up and down, where they have lost to the likes of Chile and Morocco but have gone on to beat both Nigeria and Bolivia with ease. The outcome of friendly fixtures should not be taken too lightly or seriously, though, it does allow the manager to understand what his best line-up is ahead of the huge competition in the World Cup.

We now look more into the information we need to know about Serbia on and off the pitch.


Sunday, 17th June – Costa Rica vs Serbia (Samara Arena, Samara) kick-off 13:00pm

Friday, 22nd June – Serbia vs Switzerland (Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad) kick-off 19:00pm

Wednesday, 27th June – Serbia vs Brazil (Spartak Stadium, Moscow) kick-off 19:00pm


Star player

Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic is regarded as Serbia’s key player that will be heavily relied on in both areas of the pitch. Having played at the top level of English football for many years as well as unsurprisingly making a huge number of appearances for both club and country, the defensive-midfielder is expected to play in his usual position in front of the back-line and will be aiming to intercept and break down the opposition’s attack to quickly setting the side off on the counter-attack.

Given that Serbia are blessed with a number of attacking-minded central midfielders and forwards, Matic will need to make sure that he does not lose concentration of the game for even one second, or his side will be punished for it. The 29-year-old is seen as an individual, who is very composed and is quite intelligent when it comes to reading the game, which should allow the side to express themselves in many ways as well as adapt and adjust to the opponent’s gameplan or style of play.

The one to keep an eye out for…

When looking at the young and rising talents within the current Serbia squad, there is not even one single player that has the hype and potential built around him compared to Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. Already being linked with the likes of Juventus, Manchester United and Real Madrid, he will be closely watched by many football supporters including the ones who have become fond of him over the last couple of months.

Being regarded as a complete midfielder, his worth will without a doubt increase during the next couple of weeks if he goes on to replicating his club performances for his country. On top of that, his movement on and off the ball is one of his many important strengths, where the opposition find it hard to get the ball off him and they simply cannot match his boasting figure as well as his striking power.


What to expect from manager Mladen Krstajic?

Since taking over as the national coach of Serbia in October 2017, Mladen Krstajic hasn’t really had the chance to implement his style or his ideal ways on to the national squad as he has only managed the side for a couple of friendly fixtures. Also, the 44-year-old has no experience as a head coach or manager, which could potentially prove to be a huge make or break moment for all parties.

Overall, Serbia are predicted to setup within a 4-2-3-1 formation, where Nemanja Matic and Crystal Palace’s Luka Milivojevic will be utilised in a double pivot whilst the likes of Milinkovic-Savic, Adem Ljajic, Dusan Tadic and Aleksandar Mitrovic will play further up the pitch. Meanwhile, the experience and leadership skill of both Aleksandar Kolarov and Branislav Ivanovic will be more than important as Krstajic will want his men to stay compact and defensively solid throughout the full competition.

How far can Serbia go in the competition?

It’s never easy to say how far a team can go in the World Cup as it does come down to little moments as well as a bit of luck. However, Serbia as a whole should be aiming to at least get through the group stages of the World Cup, which is something they haven’t achieved since 1998.

At the end of the day, Serbian football is becoming a huge hit in Europe and around the world, and they will certainly be seen as one of the dark horses of the competition. Be sure to check out where you can register for Free and invite your friends to challenge them in a new Fantasy World Cup game!

Has Marouane Fellaini won over the doubters?

Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 20.38.42

When all’s said and done, a 2nd place finish in the 2017/18 Premier League season was the best Manchester United were going to get.

That may disappoint some, but for a team that are still trying to find their identity under Jose Mourinho, it’s progress.

Something Marouane Fellaini has shown year after year at the Red Devils.

Many decry the Belgian as one dimensional, but Mourinho has always backed Fellaini to the hilt. Indeed, the Portuguese has even gone as far as saying on more than one occasion that the team is much weaker without the midfielder in it.

Continue reading

Game of the Week – Manchester United staged a stunning comeback at Crystal Palace

The battle for top-four is tighter than ever in Premier League, and as we head into the last quarter of the season, the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea can’t afford to drop points. For obvious reasons, we are not counting Manchester City and Arsenal as realistic candidates for the battle. Continue reading