31 Jul, 19:30
Matic may have indeed just completed a season below his best but he still kept Cesc Fabregas out of the side for the most part and continued to do the simple work in the centre of the park that allows others to thrive and can easily go overlooked.
That is a cog Mourinho has been searching for since arriving at Old Trafford. Marouane Fellaini was at times given that role in makeshift fashion but for Matic the anticipation, discipline, and positional sense required comes naturally.
He can win possession and drive forward in a muscular manner but in the main Mourinho wants a midfielder who will provide the lock in front of defence, gifting greater offensive freedom to those around him. Paul Pogba was criticised last season for failing to reach the heights hit at Juventus. Contrary to some belief he did shine in moments, notably the Europa League final, but for £89m more could have been expected. Yet the Frenchman was operating in a different system, alongside different personnel to that which brought his finest form in Turin.
Mourinho relied mostly on a 4-2-3-1 formation but did also employ the three-man midfield Pogba was familiar with. But it felt forced due to the players available. Ander Herrera was United’s player of the season, a fiery bee across the pitch, but he is better being allowed to cover plenty of grass than asked to sit deep.
So Pogba’s inclination to get forward was occasionally confused by defensive responsibilities and an uncertainty over the protection offered further back. Matic should solve that problem, at his peak a guarantee of resilience and composure on the ball. At 6ft 4in, Matic will add to a strong spine of David de Gea, Eric Bailly, Pogba and Romelu Lukaku that will have opponents looking skywards. Michael Carrick, possibly the best ball-player in purest terms at United, is not small either and he will vie with Matic for a place. But at 36 years old the new club captain may have more of a presence in leadership terms.
The addition of Matic adds another level to United’s side ahead of a campaign where the title must be challenged for and a good stab at the Champions League made.