It is no secret that Manchester United have been in the market for a new central midfielder since the start of the summer, but haven’t been able to nail down any signing as of yet.
Two of the names that have been most spoken of in and around the Old Trafford as potential arrivals in the midfield area are Nemanja Matic of Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur’s Eric Dier. The two midfielders have been strongly linked with a move to United for a while now, but they have been unable to strike a deal for either of the players as of yet.
While Matic was expected to complete a move to United, relations have soured between the two clubs after the Red Devils signed Romelu Lukaku from under Chelsea’s noses, due to which the Premier League champions are reluctant to sell. However, recent reports emerged claiming that the Blues owner Roman Abramovich had given a green light to the move, provided the two clubs agree on a fee, with Chelsea likely to demand £50 million (Telegraph).
Dier, on the other hand, has been subject of a £60 million offer from the 20-time English champions, but Spurs are firm on their stance stating that the player is not for sale at any price. The 23-year old is a boyhood United fan and as per reports, wants a move to the North West, but with his club insistent that they are not willing to sell, it will take a huge bid from United to get him.
With United looking intent on signing either of the two in the summer, let’s take a look at who will be the better fit at Old Trafford under Jose Mourinho;
Matic was given his second chance at Chelsea by Mourinho himself, when he brought the Serbian international back from Benfica in January 2014, after the club had sold him in 2011 as part of the deal to sign David Luiz. And since his return, the 28-year old has established himself as one of the finest defensive midfielders in the Premier League and has played a pivotal part in the club winning two league titles in three years.
A brilliant passer of the ball and possessing excellent defensive nous, Matic will be the ideal foil to someone like Paul Pogba in the middle of the park. Since his return to the Premier League in 2014, the 28-year old has made a total of 320 tackles in the top flight. Only Manchester City’s Fernandinho has made more tackles (325) in that period for a midfielder, highlighting the tenacity that Matic will be adding to the midfield. There is the added advantage of both the player and the manager knowing each other in and out, so both will be aware of what the other will be expecting.
Dier, on the other hand, is much younger than the Serbian at 23, and despite starting off as a defender at Tottenham, the Englishman has flourished beautifully in the midfield enforcer role. He may have lost the place in the middle of the park to Victor Wanyama last season, but is the first choice in the position for the England national team, indicating his quality and mettle in that role. His defensive awareness, combined with his brilliant range of distribution make him a natural fit in that role and is one of the main reasons why Mourinho sees him as the natural heir to Michael Carrick.
Having played in 34 league games last season, Dier made 187 accurate long passes last season. This tally was only eclipsed by teammate Toby Alderweireld (222) in the league, showing that the former Sporting Lisbon star has the ability to instigate attacks from deep by pinging long balls out to the flanks. This ability will be particularly helpful to United’s style of play, with the wingers and the full-backs pressing high up the pitch, while his presence will also allow them to keep the defensive solidity when the full-backs romping forward. Dier’s ability to slot in the central defensive role will also be of appeal to Jose, considering that he is hinting at the possibility of playing a three-man defence for the next season.
Both Dier and Matic are proven performers in the league and both come in with their own advantages. Matic will bring in years of experience and the know-how of winning titles while Dier will add a youthful exuberance to the side. However, with both players likely to cost in excess of £50 million, Dier will present better value of money as he is still 23 and can continue playing for much longer compared to Matic, who is already 28 and is at the prime of his career and also offers added options to the manager with his versatile nature. But it is going to take a Herculean task to get Tottenham to let go of the England international.
Stats taken from WhoScored.com