Nemanja Matic is arguably Jose Mourinho’s most trusted lieutenant at Manchester United but the Serbian has been vastly underperforming this season.
The former Chelsea man missed the start of the campaign after undergoing surgery at the start of United’s pre-season tour; so was he rushed back? We’ve taken a closer look…
A familiar issue
This is not the first time Matic has been a key part of a side that has struggled under Mourinho; both men were of course part of Chelsea’s botched Premier League title defence in the 2015/16 season.
On that occasion, Mourinho was sacked in mid-December, with Chelsea just two places and one point above the relegation zone.
Things are obviously not as bad as that at United right now, but Matic was one of the worst performers in a side which had stopped playing for Mourinho and that may sound a little familiar to Reds fans.
It is a bizarre quirk that Mourinho seems to trust Matic emphatically – he continues to try and play him through this bad form – when his performances have now been substandard in both the seasons the Portuguese has needed it most.
What’s the reason?
That swift pre-season surgery, coming on the back of a World Cup where Matic was playing through the pain, cannot have helped.
Matic is an aging player, who has never particularly had much pace to lose, so any drop-off physically was always going to hit him hard.
But his performances have been so poor at a time when a manager with whom he has a strong relationship and his physical characteristics are so well suited in football terms needs leaders; something doesn’t add up there.
Mourinho has criticised some of United’s players of late, but he has lost the ability to inspire the likes of Matic and Romelu Lukaku, who are two of his biggest disciples in the dressing room and were his two biggest summer signings in 2017.