From the time Sir Alex Ferguson left the club until this transfer window, the core of Manchester United’s team has never looked so weak. Long gone are the days of a United side propped up by Rio Ferdinand, Roy Keane and Wayne Rooney.
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic leaving the club, Michael Carrick coming towards the end of his career and with a below-par defence, Mourinho’s side has been crying out for a central defensive partnership, a top quality holding midfielder and a prolific striker.
Under Ferguson there were so many; the likes of Nemanja Vidić, Paul Scholes and Ruud van Nistelrooy provided strength and class in key positions, guiding the club to win after win.
Now, with Nemanja Matic rejoining his former manager at Old Trafford from Chelsea for a fee of £40m, the Red Devils could finally have the spine they have been looking for.
Out of touch with Conte’s Chelsea
Mourinho was the manager who brought Matic back to Stamford Bridge in 2014 for £22m after the club had originally sold the 6ft 4in midfielder to Benfica for just £3m in 2011. After his return to Chelsea, Mourinho moulded Matic into a defensive-minded midfield powerhouse, who used his strength and power to dominate in central midfield for the Blues.
Matic was a part of two of Chelsea’s Premier League winning campaigns, one under Mourinho in 2014 and he also played a key role in their latest victory under Antonio Conte, in which he made 35 appearances, scoring once and assisting seven.
Despite being selected for almost every Premier League game, it seemed at times that Matic was out of touch with the rest of the Chelsea team and their counter-attacking style of play.
The Serbian would often choose to slow the play down, take an extra touch to ensure he would not risk giving the ball away and often play sideways rather than attempt a risky forward pass. He also only scored four goals in 123 Premier League appearances so far in his career.
The importance of Matic’s role
Last season, his role at Chelsea became less valuable with the signing of N’Golo Kante, who picked up the PFA Player of the Year award for his stunning performances throughout the season.
However, Mourinho will not care one bit as long as he can rely on his new signing to plug the gap in the Red Devils’ midfield.
The Portuguese manager has relied on key players in this defensive midfield role to dictate play and control the game at every club he managed for.
At Porto, he had Costinha, at Chelsea the first time Claude Makelele, for Inter it was Esteban Cambiasso, at Madrid, it was Xabi Alonso and then when he rejoined Chelsea in 2014 it was Matic.
Completing Mourinho’s spine
Luckily for Manchester United, they have had a world-class goalkeeping foundation in David de Gea to save them in recent years.
However, now Mourinho’s team have strengthened in defence with the signing of Victor Lindelof from Benfica (£30.7m), in the heart of midfield with Matic and up top with their big summer signing, Romelu Lukaku (£75m).
The former Chelsea manager has got a player who he knows will be disciplined in his role for the team.
Mourinho will be hoping that his latest summer signing will give other players, such as Paul Pogba, the freedom to create and score goals, with the reassurance that the big Serb will be there to sweep up the mess.
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