Manchester United have announced that Nemanja Matic has renewed his contract with the club until 2023.
The Serbian midfielder, 31, signed for the club from Chelsea in a £40 million move in 2017 and his contract was initially due to expire this summer. The club activated a one-year extension clause in March to tie him down for next season at least but his good form this season has seen him rewarded with fresh terms.
Matic has been a big part of Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side being rejuvinated since the turn of the year and has been instrumental since the league came back in the holding role alongside Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes.
Despite all his good form, Manchester United should be wary of falling into their previous ways. The club hasn’t recruited well recently and have been accused of waiting too long to replace players who have failed to perform under Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho. The club have given new contracts to fringe players like Juan Mata, Phil Jones and Marouane Fellaini in the last two years only for them to barely feature afterwards.
While Matic is an able part of the squad currently, we’ve seen for large parts of the previous two campaigns that he is on his last legs. Its not a coincidence that the former Benfica man’s upturn in form has come after an extended period of time out of the side, meaning his body has been allowed to rest and recover too.
With a big summer coming up, it’s not expected that Manchester United will prioritise the signing of a new defensive midfielder. The new contract of Matic and Scott McTominay last week shows that Solskjær has faith in his current midfield options but the club should have their eye on the future.
Young defensive midfielders of quality are hard to come by and there are currently few available for what wouldn’t be seen as a crazily inflated fee. West Ham’s Declan Rice is likely to be available for around £40 million if they get relegated and would be a great option. Rice is able to play at centre-back or in midfield and with Harry Maguire and Nemanja Matic to learn from, he would improve greatly. He already has Premier League experience having been a regular for the Hammers over the last two seasons and would fit in with Ole’s policy of signing young and improving them.
Another option would be Italian Sandro Tonali. While he is looking likely to be heading to Inter Milan this summer, United should at the very least be competing for his signature. In terms of style, Tonali is quite similar to Matic in that he’s a primarily defensive midfielder but he’s more than comfortable on the ball. He has been described as a hybrid of Gennaro Gattuso and Andrea Pirlo by the press in Italy, a huge compliment.
The club have already been linked with Portugal U21 international Florentio Luis for the position too, while many fans online are calling for the club to show an interest in Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips for the role.
Regardless of who the club bring it, it won’t be this summer. That’s fine too. So long as they have a plan of replacing Matic in due course, before the three year deal comes to an end, then it’ll be fine. If not, they could have just taken a backwards step in their quest to become a force in European football once again.