Nemanja Matic has admitted that his performances for Manchester United last season were nowhere near good enough.
The Serbian, having enjoyed a solid first season, suffered many moments of ignominy at the base of midfield throughout the 2018-19.
Too many times – one example, off the top of my head, being Derby County at home – Matic was completely overrun by teams which targeted his lack of mobility, completing exposing a frail back four.
Speaking ahead of Man United’s pre-season clash with Inter Milan, the midfielder underscored that he had to perform better.
Matic: “My position is important to talk to the teammates, especially as one of the more senior players. I’m trying to do that, this pre-season we’re training very well, everyone of us, trying to give something extra, i’m sure this season we’ll play much better.” #mufc
— United Xtra (@utdxtra) July 19, 2019
When Matic plays poorly, it looks even worse than it actually is. The slowness of his turn, the flat-footed posture, watching as blurs go past him, another generation of new footballers seemingly ready to leave Matic in their vapour trail, forever. It looks like a dad playing against some actually-quite-good 18-year-olds.
When he is in commanding form, however, the opposite can be true. Matic at his best can be all-encompassing, seemingly covering each blade of grass with ease, like a Balkan steamroller but with a smooth finish. His passing, regardless of form, is always smooth, somewhat underrated even.
The key for Solskjaer must be rotation. Jose Mourinho failed to do that last season – out of lack of trust in others – and the Serbian ended up with burnout. Solskjaer has to learn from his predecessor’s mistakes.