Nemanja Matic’s time at Manchester United is drawing to a close; academy graduate ready to show his worth

Nemanja Matic’s time at Manchester United is drawing to a close; academy graduate ready to show his worth

Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic is coming to the end of his career at the club. In the summer, both AC Milan and Inter Milan were interested in the 31-year-old, whose contract will run out at the end of the season, although there is the option for another year to be added, which might ensure United got a fee for the player, should he leave.

Reports in the media suggested that Matic was ‘forced’ to stay at the club this summer but could have linked up with Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez at Inter, if he was allowed to leave. So far this season, after not being picked to start or come off the bench in the first three matches, Matic played 22 minutes against Southampton, a 1-1 draw.

Looking at the fact Matic has been overlooked by Solskjaer this season is pretty telling that his number is nearly up. When he has played, he has been very slow, effectively slowing down United’s counter-attacking play, even taking time to despatch the ball, which is clearly not going to work for United. Matic has been professional, to a point.

Only last week, Matic had suggested that Solskjaer could lose his job this season if he did not get things right. Some took that as a criticism, others a call to arms to get the players ready for their matches after the first international break of the season. The media, of course, took the negative slant as the words ‘Manchester United’ sell and bring in clicks. Matic said:

“The coach must opt for the team that will fight for the title and if he does not win, he bears the responsibility.

“I have been in football for a long time, I have played almost all the games for all the clubs in the last 10 years.

“In order for me to play, one had to sit on the bench and accept that fact, and so do I now.”

At this moment in time, it is hard to see where Matic fits into this United team. With Solskjaer utilising a 4-2-3-1 formation, which is not really working, with Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay the trusted central midfielders, even a switch to a 4-3-3 formation might see Matic remain on the bench or not involved at all.

United need more creativity in the midfield, which is where Angel Gomes could come in. In terms of filling Matic’s position, James Garner, who has so far performed for the U23s this season, scoring four goals and one assist in the four matches he has played, could see him fast-tracked into first team contention, which would be great to see.

Garner has been compared to United coach and former player, Michael Carrick. This is based on his style of play and positioning during matches. Despite his age, 18, Garner plays football as a much older player. He is calm and composed with a high work rate and level of determination. He’s a natural leader with a good footballing mind.

Ensuring that the 18-year-old plays first team football this season will be down to Solskjaer, who can call on his services from the U23s. United also have the likes of Fred, who has not played a single minute of football this season but for me, Garner is the more exciting prospect, although Fred should be given a chance to redeem himself after last season.

I would imagine, that if Garner started playing to a good standard at first-team level, the likelihood of Matic leaving in January or even next summer would be very high, as long as there was interest in his services, of which there would seem to be in Italy. Should Garner and Fred play well, if, given the chance, this could, in fact, become reality?

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