Manchester United have finally put an end to one of summer’s longest transfer sagas. Nemanja Matic has signed from Chelsea for £35m rising to £40m in add-ons, agreeing a three year contract. United also have the option to extend that contract by a further year. He takes the number 31 shirt that previously belonged to Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Matic is United’s third purchase of the summer, joining Swedish centre back Victor Lindelof, who signed from Benfica in a £30m deal, and Romelu Lukaku, who completed a deal that could rise to £90m from Everton.
Ironically, Lukaku was heavily linked with Chelsea throughout the summer, with some sources believing a deal was all but done. Now another of Mourinho’s former players has agreed to re-join him as the Portuguese coach assembles a squad worthy of challenging for the Premier League title.
It was Mourinho who, while at Chelsea, re-signed Matic from Benfica for £21m in January 2014; a deal that paid dividends for both parties. Carlo Ancelotti had flogged the Serb as makeweight to bring David Luiz to the club back in January 2011. He settled straight back in to English football with a commanding performance against Manchester City in February 2014 as Chelsea shocked the world with a 1-0 win at the Etihad, offering the title race a huge twist.
Things only got better for Matic the next season as his monstrous displays in the holding midfield role helped Chelsea go on to win the Premier League title in 14/15. His performances didn’t go unnoticed as he earned a place in the PFA Team of the Year.
Following a torrid year all around for Chelsea the next season, where Jose Mourinho was given his marching orders, Matic returned to the heart of the side under new boss Antonio Conte. Mourinho set up base at his new project with Manchester United while Conte tweaked Chelsea’s system from worn to fresh, leading the Blues to yet another Premier League title, with Matic making 35 appearances.
Nevertheless, many believed that Matic would yearn for a new challenge in the post-season, with his usual role occupied by Player of the Year N’Golo Kante and Chelsea pushing to sign his younger model Tiemoue Bakayoko.
United had initially been tipped by bookmakers to sign Bakayoko’s Monaco teammate Fabinho, while speculation regarding Eric Dier from Tottenham always seemed to resurface. When Lukaku joined Chelsea, rumours emerged that Chelsea would refuse to sell Matic to United in response, with Italian champions Juventus were said to be very interested.
Once the games ended and business unfolded, it was always going to be Mourinho who won, in truth. Once the fee had been agreed with stubborn Chelsea, it was all about dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.
United manager Jose Mourinho described Matic as a “team player” who has “everything we want in a footballer; loyalty, consistency, ambition”.
Matic said: “I am delighted to have joined Manchester United. To work with Jose Mourinho once again was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. This is a very exciting time for the club and I am looking forward to playing my part in creating more history for this great club.”