It is rare that a single player makes a sizable difference at a European powerhouse, with that kind of impact usually being reserved for a tactically superior gaffer or a true superstar.
However, every once in a while, a club is able to land a valuable player, and the sheer presence of such players is what goes on to define the side’s success for much of their game-time.
Nemanja Matic’s arrival at Manchester United was hailed to be one such move, and indeed his first season at Old Trafford made all the difference in the manner in which the side functioned.
Having a holding midfielder of the Serb’s caliber cemented the side’s presence as a defensive powerhouse, and the manner in which he aided their conduit play left little to doubt.
However, this season has not gifted United with the same Matic. If anything, a progressively weaker showing has been displayed by the former Chelsea star week in, week out. Their 2-1 victory over Bournemouth seemed to show the worst that he could give, and even staunch supporters of the Red Devils were in agreement.
Most viewers felt his showing to be too slow and devoid of passion, and took to Twitter to express as much. The stats also painted a grim picture for the 30-year-old, and one does wonder if age is finally catching up to him.
Matic is done. Shouldn't be anywhere near the team. Offers no screening at all. Completely bypassed
— United Rant (@unitedrant) November 3, 2018
Matic potentially a bigger problem than Smalling. He’s lazy as fuck. Immobile. Takes an age on the ball. Passing mediocre. Offering absolutely nothing.
— BadmintonFan (@JaydnMUFC) November 3, 2018
— Full Time DEVILS (@FullTimeDEVILS) November 3, 2018
Would rather Woodward came down from the stands and played at DM than Matić right now.
— Jordan Clarke (@FourFourJordan) November 3, 2018
Amazing how Fred can have a bad 8 minutes after half time and get subbed and Matic can have a bad 8 months and play every game
— Wark Woldbridge (@markgoldbridge) November 3, 2018
His biggest weakness seems to be in his dwindling ability to intercept the ball, with a worrying statistic pointing out that he has managed only five interceptions in seven Premier League appearances, while Andreas Pereira, the man most likely to replace him, managed the same number in just one game against Leicester on opening day.
His pivotal role in the heart of United’s midfield makes this an even more worrying trend, and should things fail to improve, Mourinho may be forced to make a big change in spite of his affinity for Matic.