Nemanja Matic is one of the Manchester United players who have resumed right where they left off.

The Serbian is in great shape and in fantastic form, and he has played a key role in our performances since the season restarted.

Matic helped United earn a draw against Spurs, before dominating the midfield in the win over Sheffield United.

When he was needed again at the weekend, he came off the bench and helped United win the FA Cup quarter-final against Norwich.

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Younger Matic required

Matic’s three games themselves encapsulate the problem. At 31, he is not capable of starting every single match.

So Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has tried to carefully manage his game time, and it has not quite worked.

Matic was missed against Spurs, and Norwich, before being called upon when he was needed.

This has been the case throughout 2020, with United picking Matic every other game as we rotated through midweek and weekend games.

You can get away with that to a point, but as we get towards the business end of the season where we cannot afford a single slip-up, we want to be picking our best team every single game.

Fred and Scott McTominay are excellent midfielders, but neither offer the same protection to a defence which Matic does. They are different types of players.

This season in 21 games with Matic, United have a record of 15 clean sheets.

 

Without him the record is not so good. In 25 matches United have registered just six clean sheets.

Has to be a priority

There is still a place for Matic next season. Very much so. But United have to bear in mind that as he hits 32 in August, there could be a decline, or a recurrence of his injury.

Matic only signed a one-year contract extension, and while there is a case he deserves a longer one, it is only half a solution, if he can only start in half of the matches.

United need to find a younger Matic, a top class defensive midfielder who can rotate with the Serbian, learn from him, and develop into his replacement, one who is capable of starting two games a week.

There are no easy answers here. Thomas Partey would be that man. But he is 27. United are likely to want a younger player, if it involves a £40 million plus spend.

Lille’s Boubakary Soumare is a contender, although untested at the highest level. United have to compromise somewhere though.

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Can a young player like James Garner step up and start controlling games in the manner Matic does? It’s a huge ask, and over the past year Garner has shown he has more to his game than purely playing a defensive role.

Matic’s importance to the side is unquestioned right now, and it is his sheer quality which makes it so noticeable when he is not involved.

Jadon Sancho may be the top priority as United look to solve a long-standing right wing dilemma this summer.

After that, finding Matic’s long-term successor has to be near the very top of United’s to-do list.

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