Nemanja Matic’s Manchester United career looked set to be over just a couple of months ago.
The midfielder had fallen down the pecking order under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but he has had an unexpected renaissance at Old Trafford.
Here is a look at three reasons why Matic has rediscovered his best form in recent weeks…
A much needed rest
In the summer of 2017, Matic was brought to the club by Jose Mourinho for £40 million and immediately became one of the first names on the team sheet.
The midfielder made 49 appearances in all competitions during his first season at Old Trafford before playing 38 games in 2018-19.
However, the workload and lack of rotation saw Matic burnout quite quickly and his form dropped off as a result.
A groin injury then gave him got a rare rest in the first half of 2019-20, and he started only two of United’s opening 19 Premier League games.
Since returning to United’s lineup in December, the midfielder has looked rejuvenated and able to cover more ground.
Matic has also provided excellent cover for the backline and United have kept nine clean sheets in his last 13 starts in all competitions.
He may struggle to play three games a week anymore but as long as United know when to rotate the squad he can still be a useful option.
The teammates around him
Matic’s upturn in form has coincided with impressive performances from Harry Maguire, Fred and Bruno Fernandes.
The Serbian midfielder often likes to take the ball from the back four but that can be quite difficult when your centre-backs are Phil Jones and Chris Smalling.
Maguire’s composure and calmness on the ball helps to connect the defence and midfield so it also brings Matic into the game.
As well as the added defensive support, the 31-year-old is also playing alongside better players in the middle of the park.
His recent midfield partners have been Fred and Fernandes and the pair have helped bring the best out of Matic.
For example, their energy and commitment to winning the ball back has certainly made up for his lack of mobility.
Ultimately, there’s much less of a reliance on Matic to do all the defensive work while also creating chances for others.
The competition from McTominay
Matic’s place in the United team was rarely under threat as they didn’t have many other viable options in that position.
But Scott McTominay’s performances as a defensive midfielder over the last 12 months had demoted Matic to a bit-part player.
In fact, Matic was only given a run in the team due to the injury McTominay picked up over the festive period, but he certainly took his chance.
The Serbian stepped up admirably in McTominay’s absence and the Scot will now have to fight for a place back in the team.
With Matic’s contract set to expire at the end of this season, he is doing everything he can to show United that he deserves a new deal.
- Manni Norkett: The next top Manchester United academy striker you need to know
- Getting Anthony Martial back to his best could transform Manchester United
- No Rashford and possibly no Sancho: Who starts for Manchester United on the wing against Leeds?
- Ethan Laird is wanted by Swansea and a loan move looks essential
- Looking back at United reportedly agreeing terms with Sancho a year ago