Over the last few months we have worked on the assumption Nemanja Matic will be sold in January.
But United should not be in a rush to sell the Serbian on January 1. Doing so could be counter productive.
The fixture list is piling up so much so that between now and January 28, United have 10 matches.
These include big games away at Aesenal and Liverpool, FA Cup away at Wolves, and Carabao Cup semi-finals versus City. And it’s not like this United side are good enough to cruise through the ‘easy games’ either, every match is a slog.
The whole squad will be needed and rotation required, even without inevitable injuries.
Selling Matic immediately would be counter productive, and make United’s life more difficult, putting pressure on key starters Fred and Scott McTominay.
The last game of the month is January 28 against City in the second leg, at which point attentions could turn to finalising a sale for the midfielder if it is deemed he has done his job and is no longer required.
So why sell?
Long term, Nemanja Matic does not have a place in this squad. United want to get younger, quicker, and build for the future.
Yet in the here and now, he might just have a role in getting us through January’s hectic schedule, which could increase to 11 games if there is a replay with Wolves.
This is the final year of Matic’s contract since he signed for £40 million in 2017.
United do have an option to activate a 12 month extension, which would allow us to sell the Serbian in the summer instead rather than lose him on a free transfer.
While there is interest in Matic now, it might make sense to sell on deadline day, once he has helped us get through the packed fixture schedule in January.
A decision over Matic might be influenced too by what happens with injury and illness struck Paul Pogba, and whether he ever plays for the club again.
Could there be a replacement?
United need a central midfielder already, before replacing Nemanja Matic comes into consideration.
There are two standout candidates, Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali, and Lille’s Boubakary Soumare.
A move for Tonali looks unlikely in January with Brescia talking up crazy figures of £250 million (The Mail), so Soumare looks a more likely option.
French outlet La Voix du Nord reported this week United and Tottenham have both enquired over a deal for Soumare.
If this happens, it will speed up a departure for Matic, Soumare would be a direct replacement.
It is unclear however how much United are prioritising a midfielder in January. Attacking reinforcements appear to be at the top of the club’s list.
Given that United only signed three players in the summer, expecting more than one in January would be over-optimistic.
All of this means Matic might be needed a little longer. Don’t be surprised if he ends up being kept until the summer. If he helps us reach the Carabao Cup final, he will probably want to stick around to earn a medal and he will have deserved it.
Delaying a decision until January deadline day may be best all round.
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