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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Nemanja Matic is aware he is facing the end. His contract expires this summer and while Manchester United have an option for an extra year, they have not yet triggered it. There have been no discussions about another deal, though he would welcome them. A £40 million (Dh191m) signing who is attracting attention from other clubs knows the growing probability is that he will leave on a free transfer.
United’s decision reflects a wider choice about the direction of the club. Matic bluntly accepted they have fallen short of the standards they require this year and suggested a youth policy may need to be re-examined by emphasising the importance of experience. He could be jettisoned as the they fast-forward to a new era.
“I’ve got a contract until the end of the season,” said the Serbian. “We will see. I’m at Carrington every day open to talks if they think I can help. If not, life will go on. It’s a pleasure to represent this club for me.”
His preference is to remain at Old Trafford, but he has options. “When you play at Manchester United, many clubs are looking to sign you,” the midfielder added. “That’s not only me, it’s for every player – especially when you’re out of contract. My first option is Manchester United but if they decide something else then there are always solutions.”
Matic is 31. He represents a throwback to the old regime. He remains inextricably linked with Jose Mourinho, who signed him for first Chelsea and then, in 2017, for United. He was sidelined by the Portuguese’s successor, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer; an older, slower player ill-suited to his preference for youth and pace, until injury to Scott McTominay brought his recall.
He scored United’s winner in the second leg of the Manchester derby semi-final in the Carabao Cup, but it was a bittersweet affair. United exited 3-2 on aggregate and Matic became their first player since Wayne Rooney in 2014 to get a goal and a red card in the same game.
One route to silverware was closed off for a team who are 36 points behind Liverpool. Matic won the Premier League in each of his spells at Chelsea, but he has no medals to show for his time at Old Trafford. “If they want me to stay then of course I’ll give my best to win trophies,” he added. “To be honest, the reality now, with this team, is hard to win the league. We’re very far from that.
“We are in the Europa League. Many good teams are in it – Inter Milan, Ajax – who came from the Champions League. It will be very hard, not impossible, and we have a chance.”
One schooled in Mourinho’s pragmatic short-termism of teams staffed with senior players is an outlier in an increasingly young United side. Solskjaer has promoted youth, but Matic feels it is a reason behind United’s inconsistency and thinks it is hard to have transitional years at clubs of their stature.
“We had some ups and downs,” he said. “It is normal for these players who are still young and improving but we cannot be happy because we are United, we always want to win.
“The problem is that in these kinds of clubs you do not have time. They want results. We will see what is the plan of the club, if they will continue like this to give chances to youngsters. You can’t blame them. They are giving their best but I think United deserve more and the club wants to win. Supporters are used to trophies.”
He feels it is hard to shepherd junior colleagues through games and wonders if an end-of-season review will result in a change of approach. “There is not the time on the pitch to see what the young guy is doing,” he explained. “Because for sure he will give his best but we will see at the end of the season if his best in this moment is enough for this kind of clubs.” And United will decide if Matic forms part of their future.
Updated: January 31, 2020 08:58 AM
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