Matic: A Mourinho masterstroke?
Will his signature lead Man Utd to the title or do they need another
By Ritvik Vipra , Guest Writer EADF.
A two-time premier league winner with Chelsea and a mainstay of Conte’s team last season, Matic will now look to ply his trade at Old Trafford under Mourinho, after completing a move from London to the Northwest. The pair clearly share a good working relationship with mutual admiration for each other.
One could also say that Matic is the type of midfielder Mourinho craves for and has utilized with significant success during his spells with Porto, Chelsea and Inter. It appears that he is the last piece of the jigsaw that Jose has been hunting for since he started the herculean task of rebuilding United. But is this all that Jose needs to do before the transfer window ends? Is this the masterstroke that will help lift United the title in May?
The transfer window this summer, as crazy as it has been, has also been somewhat identical to a semi-ripe tangerine for many United fans. Sweet moments here and there have been punctuated with sour and disappointing notes. The failed pursuit of Griezmann to the surprising capture of Lukaku from under Chelsea’s nose followed by unfruitful efforts towards securing players like Dier, Perisic and Fabinho before hooking Matic at the expense of Chelsea again (does anyone see a pattern developing yet?) – it has been a bittersweet ride so far. The overall feeling among United supporters though seems to be that of contentment and excitement. There is a renewed sense of hope and belief among the Old Trafford faithful.
The opening day fixture against West Ham at home echoed this sentiment accurately. United were dominant, rampant, quick and clinical – probably the first time these four words have been used together to describe a single United performance since the days of Sir Alex . There was plenty to be happy about for Mourinho. Lukaku scored a brace on debut with two neatly taken goals and had a good game overall. Martial made an impact off the bench in the closing stages of the game with a goal and an assist which should do his confidence and credibility (in Jose’s eyes) wonders. Pogba put the icing on the cake with a mid-range effort from out of the box beating newly signed Hammers stopper Joe Hart.
Apart from the goal scorers, all of United’s players had a good game. Rashford was a constant threat down the left channels and had a few opportunities to score; with one outstanding curling effort after cutting in from the left hitting the inside of the post. Mkhitaryan was lively throughout and finished with two assists to his name. Mata made himself useful. Pogba was dominant through the match and produced a couple of quality moments. Blind produced a more assured and robust performance than any of his pre-season showings. The remaining part of the United defending ensemble was sturdy and strong. One would assume that the Man of the Match would be one of the players mentioned above. Yet, quite astonishingly, that honor fell upon the new man – Matic.
Matic was so impressive in his full United debut that it felt as if he had been at the club forever. Controlling the midfield is second nature to Matic but this performance saw him boss the game from start to finish and dictate play like a conductor on Broadway. He was involved in the build-up to two of United’s goals and was majestic to watch.
Fluid on the ball, powerful in tackles, effective on the attack and extremely composed in his play- it is easy to see why ‘Mou’ spent close to 40 million quid for a 30-year-old midfielder. Matic looks like the perfect foil to free up Pogba and give him more time on the ball in advanced areas. He also comes as close to a replacement the Reds are going to find for Michael Carrick considering the former England Internationals’s attributes as well as experience. He will bring the kind of stability that United have been crying out for given their plethora of attacking talent, allowing the squad to truly deliver their potential.
He has Premier League experience and is a proven winner; both crucial in delivering success. Combining silverware and experience in England with the numbers he has racked up over the past three years (in tackles per game, interceptions, aerial duels, key passes), Mourinho may be tempted to believe that he has found the missing link in United’s armor – and that too by weakening a direct title rival in Chelsea.
Signing any one of the above players or other players of similar mould will add a whole new dimension to United’s attacking play. This will address both directly and indirectly the few remaining chinks in United’s armor. It should give them options of playing with different combinations upfront and of rotating between formations in games and situations that demand it. It will also help Lukaku, Mkhitaryan, Rashford, Martial, Pogba and Mata in scoring more goals both from free play and set-pieces, something United must critically improve on from last season.
Despite the muscle and stability that Matic brings to the squad, United may still need another signing become title favorites. While Matic’s signing may very well prove to be crucial and central to a successful premier league campaign for the red devils, they still need to address one more area of their game – crossing and passing in the final third. That is primarily why the manager has been motivated to go after players like Ivan Perisic and Gareth Bale. The former is a no-nonsense type of attacking winger who can deliver crosses effectively into the box and get the ball moving in areas close to the opponent’s square. The latter is an all out versatile attacking player with premier league experience and unbeatable champions league nouse and is a world-class talent.
Mourinho must know this and will try his best to make it happen before the 31st of August. United have the cash, the allure and prestige that is needed to attract top quality attacking players and first-team football is guaranteed with the red devils competing in the Champions League this season. After cogitating on several scenarios that could pan out this season, rest assured that while Matic was a Mourinho masterstroke, he still needs big ‘Ed’ to bring him another multi-faceted offensive player to unlock the that he set out to decode last season.
Edited by – Anubhav Sarker
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