Since Jose Mourinho surprisingly secured the services of midfield enforcer Nemanja Matic from Antonio Conte’s Chelsea – with the Blues manager supposedly a bystander in the £40m transfer – both sides have been dramatically affected and it’s worth examining how.

Many people are attributing Manchester United’s assertive start to this campaign on all fronts, with the acquisition of £75m man Romelu Lukaku and his impact on the side. What is often overlooked, is the fact that his predecessor Zlatan Ibrahimovic, managed an impressive 28 goals in his first season and was shortlisted for PFA Player of the Year.

In contrast Chelsea’s lacklustre opening to the season has been loosely connected to the departure of high profile talisman Diego Costa, despite the efforts of fellow Spaniard Alvaro Morata – scoring six and assisting three in nine matches, in Costa’s absence.

​​Perhaps it’s fair to say the explanation for this change in fortunes lies elsewhere. Maybe in the form of the big Serbian, whom Conte himself described as “a great loss.”

The Italian’s loss was certainly Mourinho’s gain, who claimed he “always thought he [Matic] could be a perfect player for Manchester United.” The Red-Devils boss was in search of someone to sure up the midfield and screen the defence: “He is a player I call a stability player” and Matic has certainly excelled in the role.

Chelsea are showing anything but defensive stability in recent times and the lack of midfield dominance is beginning to expose cracks people weren’t aware of last season.

Despite the £40m addition of Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco, the Blues are still struggling to assert midfield dominance over their opponents and are conceding regularly. This was glaringly exposed by Roma on Tuesday, when Chelsea’s lack of midfield control, resulted in a comprehensive 3-0 defeat, as Daniele De Rossi, Radja Nainggolan and Kevin Strootman orchestrated the pace of the whole 90 minutes.


Matic on the other hand is excelling at providing control and balance to his new side. The veteran midfielder has covered more ground than any United player in 9 of 10 matches in the Premier League and currently boasts the highest number of balls recovered in the league this campaign.

Player ​Team Ball Recovered​
​Matic ​Manchester United ​90
​Gueye ​Everton ​86
​Doucoure ​Watford ​83
​Henderson ​Liverpool ​83
​Maguire ​Leicester ​80
The 29 year old’s absence in Conte’s squad is now highlighting the defensive frailties of a number of Chelsea stars, including the formidable N’Golo Kante. The sheer number of defensive errors this season (21) suggest that something isn’t quite right for the Frenchman and begs the question, whether he’ll be the same player without the assurance and positional nuance of Matic by his side?
Mourinho had obviously noticed the system being deployed by the Champions last season and has replicated it at Manchester United. The Portuguese expert has paired Matic with Ander Herrera, another solid ball winner similar to Kante and the results have been fruitful to say the least. United have kept eight clean sheets in ten league games this season, shipping as few as four goals, while Chelsea have managed just four clean sheets, conceding 10.
Player Defensive Errors​ Interceptions​ ​Clearances ​Pass Completion
​Matic ​0 ​19 ​17 ​87%
​Bakayoko ​0 ​12 ​16 ​83%
​Kante ​21 ​16 ​8 ​85%
​Fabregas ​1 ​3 ​7 ​84%


It’s very evident at this stage that members of the Chelsea contingency under-estimated Matic’s effect on the side. Perhaps they decided age was an issue, as 23 year old Bakayoko came straight into the Serbian’s position.

The Frenchman certainly looks one for the future and is developing constantly, but in the mean-time it looks as though Conte’s side may have some serious adjusting to do, to establish balance in their team.

After considering multiple facets of the move and looking at the results, it seems as though the London outfit were too hasty in their decision to sell. However, Chelsea’s loss is United’s gain

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *