Saturday 20 October 2018

Jose Mourinho gets man as €45m Nemanja Matic moves and he could make Dublin debut

Marouane Fellaini scores Manchester United’s first goal against Valerenga. Photo by Matthew Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images
Marouane Fellaini scores Manchester United’s first goal against Valerenga. Photo by Matthew Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images

James Ducker

Jose Mourinho's frustrating wait for a third signing was almost over last night as Manchester United moved to the brink of completing a deal for Nemanja Matic.

The midfielder travelled to Manchester on Saturday after United agreed a fee with Chelsea that could reach €45m.

The Serbian then underwent a medical as he prepared to be reunited with Mourinho, under whom he won the Premier League title in 2014-15.

Matic, 29 tomorrow, will be formally announced as a United player today and could make his debut in Wednesday's friendly against Sampdoria in Dublin.

Uncertainty

They then play Real Madrid in the European Super Cup in Skopje a week tomorrow.

Matic's arrival will take United's spending this summer to almost €163 following the signings of striker Romelu Lukaku and defender Victor Lindelof, and that figure will rise by a further €23m with add-ons.

A leaked picture of Matic wearing a United training top sporting the No 31 - vacated by Bastian Schweinsteiger - emerged yesterday.

Matic has been training alone at Chelsea's training ground after being left off their pre-season tour amid uncertainty about his future and is likely to be some way short of match fitness.

Chelsea would have preferred to offload him overseas, with Juventus interested, but Matic's preference was to move to Old Trafford and Blues' owner Roman Abramovich finally sanctioned the deal.

Matic had failed to agree a deal at Stamford Bridge over the past year and the arrival of midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco for €43 pushed him closer towards the exit door.

With Michael Carrick having just turned 36 and unlikely to start most games, and Ander Herrera not a classic holding player, Mourinho wanted a recognised midfield anchorman and he knows Matic well from his time with Chelsea.

Mourinho's first choice for the role had been Tottenham's Eric Dier but Spurs were steadfastly opposed to selling the England midfielder, despite his known desire to move to Old Trafford.

United turned their sights to Radja Nainggolan and Matic as a result. But Nainggolan was reluctant to leave Roma - the Belgian signed a new four-year contract last Thursday - whereas Matic was keen to move.

His signing will bring even more height and physicality to United's team.

Matic is 6ft 4in tall and joins a squad already boasting other towering figures like Paul Pogba and Lukaku.

His arrival has raised doubts about Marouane Fellaini's future. Galatasaray are interested in taking the Belgium midfielder, but a move is not certain.

United triggered an option to extend Fellaini's contact until June 2018 last season and Mourinho is an admirer, despite the player's persistent struggles to win acceptance with fans.

But United have a bloated squad - much bigger than Mourinho is traditionally accustomed to working with - and departures are considered necessary before the transfer window closes on August 31.

Mourinho also wants to sign a winger but United have refused to meet Inter Milan's €55m asking price for Ivan Perisic and the Italian club have said they expect the Croatia international to stay unless their valuation is matched.

United would much prefer to bring in Gareth Bale from Real Madrid, although any move for the Welshman is likely to hinge on Monaco's Kylian Mbappe joining the European champions - and convincing the former Tottenham player to agree to any move.

It is thought Real will need to raise more funds through sales to help fund a move for the France striker - who is also interesting Manchester City - and Bale could be the most expendable of the array of superstar forwards at the Spanish giants.

Meanwhile, Lukaku scored as Manchester United beat Valerenga 3-0 in Oslo last night.

Fellaini gave United a first-half lead and substitutes Lukaku and Scott McTominay netted in the second half.

Fellaini served a reminder of what he is capable of by heading United in front from Henrikh Mkhitaryan's cross.

Mourinho made nine changes at the break and two of the newcomers combined after 48 minutes as Lukaku headed home a Joel Pereira cross.

Valerenga had a rare opportunity just after the hour mark but it was spurned by Ghayas Zahid, and shortly afterwards 20-year-old McTominay netted his first senior goal for United with a confidently-taken half-volley. (©Daily Telegraph, London).

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