While the right-wing position is an ongoing role Manchester United have to fix, the defensive midfield role is arguably more important.

Nemanja Matic has taken a backwards step this season and it has left United with an unbalanced midfield.

Fred and Scott McTominay as a duo leave too much for Bruno Fernandes to do offensively, and Paul Pogba is best slotted in on the wing.

But with Pogba on the wing, only one of Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood can fit in on the other side, with Edinson Cavani up top.

This selection dilemma could all be solved if United had peak Nemanja Matic, to do the defensive work while Paul Pogba operates in a box to box role.

So, for one game, for the Europa League final, can Matic produce one last time?

(Photo by PETER POWELL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

What does Matic have left?

It’s a tempting tactical option to ditch the Fred and McTominay axis and revert to Pogba and Matic, who have the big game experience.

This time last year they were United’s preferred duo, and when United went away from it for Fred and Pogba in the Europa League semi-final, the team came unstuck.

Fred and McTominay are both carrying injuries after picking up knocks against Fulham. Solskjaer has the perfect excuse to rip up his midfield plan and bring Matic in, if he has confidence in him.

The problem is that the Matic we have seen all season has been a poor one. He’s not the midfielder United paid £40 million for in 2017.

There is a reason United fans are so desperate for a new defensive midfielder, and that’s because there is little faith in the Serbian to produce.


He performed well for the first 45 minutes in his last start against Leicester, and then fell off.

United have tried Matic in big games this season, at home to Tottenham, away to Leipzig, and away at Leicester in the cup. Those three all ended in defeats. He’s simply not the player he was.

The question is whether he can lift his game for one last 90 minutes, or 120 if need be.

If Matic in this role allows Pogba to play deeper, enabling United to go with a front three of Rashford, Cavani, and Greenwood, it may be worth it.

It would also be a tremendous gamble from United. Selecting Matic would mean going against everything we have seen this season, and selecting him on faith, hope, and reputation, rather than sense.

This weekend is a factor

Perhaps the bigger issue determining United’s midfield selection against Villarreal is the need to get through this weekend’s match against Wolves.

Fred and McTominay will likely be rested, due to their injuries. Paul Pogba won’t play either.

Aston Villa v Manchester United - Premier League
(Photo by Nick Potts – Pool/Getty Images)

This leaves Nemanja Matic, probably partnering Donny van de Beek. United don’t have other options without possibly promoting Ethan Galbraith from the under-23s. This might be a good idea.

If Matic plays 45 minutes, then he’s in contention to play Villarreal. If he plays the full 90, or close to it, then he will be on the bench in Gdansk.

A bench role is most probably anyway, but Solskjaer must consider whether Matic has enough in the tank for one last great performance. If he can play like the player the club signed four years ago, then United will win the trophy.

Have something to tell us about this article?