Nemanja Matic failed to make an impact during his first spell at Chelsea, and many were sceptical when the Blues re-signed him in January 2014 for £21 million. Matic proved to be a stunning signing, as he played a key role in the London club winning the Premier League in 2014-15 and then again in 2016-17. First Jose Mourinho and then Antonio Conte got the best out of the Serbia international defensive midfielder.
Matic enjoyed one of his best seasons in 2016-17, which is why it came as a massive surprise when Chelsea let him go. One would have understood the decision had the former Benfica star moved to, say Juventus or Bayern Munich, but what was baffling was that the Blues sold him to Manchester United, one of their main rivals for the Premier League title. Former Real Madrid and FC Porto head coach Mourinho leapt at the chance of signing one of his main players at Chelsea for United, even if it cost the Red Devils £40 million.
As expected, Matic has been a superb signing for United, who, unlike last season, are now genuine contenders for the Premier League title during the 2017-18 campaign. However, despite the fact that Mourinho is a serial winner, United are still missing key injured duo Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba, so it would not be a bad idea to use one of Ladbrokes’ free Premier League bets on the side, as listed on bookie comparison site Oddschecker.
Matic has been the missing link though and, when Pogba returns, his importance is only going to increase and United are only going to get better.
The presence of Matic ensures that the defensive midfield department is taken care of. Attack-minded players such as Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata, and Pogba are able to then concentre on creating chances for Belgium international striker and summer signing Romelu Lukaku and breaching the opposition’s citadel. The Serbian has a wide passing range, and his ability to burst from midfield has also added an element of dynamism that was missing last season.
Matic was one of United’s better players against Chelsea in their recent 1-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge and was not fazed by the occasion of playing against his former club for the first time since leaving them in the summer transfer window. Given the way the Serbian has strengthened United’s midfield and his impact on the Red Devils’ team as a whole, it is hard to argue against the notion that he has been the best signing of the summer transfer window for any Premier League club.
While some will point at Liverpool winger Mohamed Salah, the fact is that the 25-year-old Egypt international has not been able to turn the Reds from top-four challengers to Premier League title contenders. Matic has done exactly that at United.