Sunday 18 March 2018

Why Nemanja Matic joining Man United is the logical next step in the Jose Mourinho masterplan

Tried and trusted Serb midfielder perfect fit for Old Trafford

Serbian international Nemanja Matic is set to leave Premier League champions Chelsea for Manchester United. Photo: Getty
Serbian international Nemanja Matic is set to leave Premier League champions Chelsea for Manchester United. Photo: Getty

Sam Wallace

Phil Jones has been banned from Manchester United's next two European matches for verbally abusing an anti-doping official who stopped him paying tribute to victims of the Manchester terrorist attack.

United, Jones and Daley Blind were also fined by UEFA, the Dutchman for failing to report immediately for a drugs test after participating in a commemoration which followed the club's Europa League triumph on May 24.

Jones, who will miss next week's Super Cup match against Real Madrid and United's first Champions League group stage game, was upset after being forced to miss a post-match squad photograph paying tribute to those killed and injured at an Ariana Grande concert two days earlier.

Blind did feature in the photo - accompanied by a chaperone - in the mistaken belief that was permitted, as it is in other competitions.

Jones, who was an unused substitute in the Europa League final against Ajax, and Blind, who played 90 minutes, were each fined euros 5,000 (pounds 4,450), while United were docked euros 10,000 over the rule breaches.

Uefa said in a statement: "The club has been charged for infringements of the Uefa anti-doping regulations (ADR) concerning the doping control procedure.

"In particular, according to Appendix B (17) of the aforementioned regulations, 'the teams are responsible for ensuring that the players drawn to undergo doping controls are taken by the respective team representatives to the doping control station straight from the pitch as soon as the match is over. This applies even when chaperones are appointed by Uefa'."

United had yet to decide last night whether to accept the sanctions or appeal.

The punishment came after defender Eric Bailly was given an additional two-match ban, also affecting the Super Cup and Champions League opener, following his sending-off in the Europa League semi-final with Celta Vigo.

As Chelsea's march to the title became relentless through early 2015, and Jose Mourinho looked like he might reign for a decade at a club to which he once never looked likely to return, he held forth on the decision to re-sign Nemanja Matic the previous year.

Matic had first joined the club aged 21 in 2009 after Mourinho's first spell and he had left before the return of the club's most successful manager, but the way in which Mourinho spoke about the Serb that day suggested that he had known about him his whole career.

"If I was here, a left-footed player," Mourinho said, "1.95 metres (tall). Position: midfield - would never, never, never leave. Never."

Now Matic - all 1.95 metres, or 6ft 4in of him - is a Mourinho player for the second time, a £40m (€45m) signing for Manchester United from Chelsea, where he refused to negotiate a new deal and forced the hand of a club who would much prefer never to have sold him to a rival.


Matic even confirmed yesterday that he "didn't train with the first team at Chelsea"; instead, he "trained alone and with a fitness coach".

In an interview with MUTV, there was little disguising his pleasure at being reunited with his old boss.

"He is a great coach and when I worked with him before he got the best from me," Matic said. "When the coach wants you to come to the club it gives you more motivation."

As he has done so often in his managerial career, Mourinho has returned to sign a player with whom he has achieved success.

In that 2014-2015 title-winning season, Matic was outstanding for Chelsea and his expensive re-acquisition came to be seen as a strength: they had made a mistake in selling him and by bringing him back they were addressing their previous error.

The next question to Mourinho that day in March 2015 when he listed Matic's physical attributes was why clubs did not protect themselves with buy-back clauses, with Paul Pogba's move from United to Juventus the example being cited.

Since the re-signing of Matic, it has become more common for clubs to re-sign players - as with Chelsea and David Luiz, and, of course, United and Pogba.

As for Mourinho, his habit of signing players he has worked with in the past seems to yield results, from Derlei and Nuno Valente, who followed him from his second job at Uniao de Leiria to Porto and then with much bigger names, such as Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto'o.

Matic's signing is part of a tradition over Mourinho's career, although he remains an unusual choice given the way it ended at Chelsea.

By the end of 2015, as Chelsea's Premier League winners fell apart, Matic was one of those whose influence had dwindled badly.

The substitution of Matic after 28 minutes in the defeat by Southampton in October 2015 was the start of a slide Mourinho could not arrest and came two months before his ultimate defenestration.

Matic had come on at half-time and was replaced by the end of the game.

On Monday, Mourinho was unequivocal about Matic and hinted that the player's stubbornness had forced Chelsea's hand.


"Nemanja is a Manchester United player and a Jose Mourinho player. He represents everything we want in a footballer; loyalty, consistency, ambition, team player.

"I would like to thank him for his desire to join us because without that, it would be impossible to have him here. I am sure our players and supporters will love him."

As ever with Mourinho, it is about what works best now.

After that Southampton substitution, he admitted that Matic was "not playing well, is not sharp defensively and is making mistakes" but he did say that said that he still trusted him.

As with many of those who have won trophies with Mourinho, that turns out still to be the case. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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