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Matic: Man Utd needs more experience in its squad

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Nemanja Matic would like to see a bit more veteran bravery in his Manchester United side.

The title-winning 29-year-old midfielder finished second in the Premier League this season, his first with the Red Devils after a strong run with Chelsea.

[ MORE: Man Utd youngster gets USMNT call-up ]

The Blues beat United in Saturday’s FA Cup Final, and Matic says the answer to winning hardware isn’t in talent as much as it is wisdom.

From the BBC:

“The only team who is better than us this year is Man City,” said Matic. “Obviously, they play amazing football. But we are second and we are in the Champions League next year, which is the most important thing. I think we need some players with some experience to bring some more qualities to our team.”

United loses one veteran cog in Michael Carrick, and both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney have skipped town in the last year.

Who could fit the bill in terms of old hats in current United positions of weakness? Well, a full offseason for Alexis Sanchez will help, and perhaps the rumors of Toby Alderweireld make the most sense of any we’ve seen in recent weeks.

Who’ve been the most impactful Premier League summer buys?

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It’s been a heck of a season for Premier League transfer buys, and that includes a bevy of intra-league purchases.

So who’ve been the best imports? Probably a safe bet to set some parameters.

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We won’t count players like Aaron Mooy, who’s Huddersfield Town purchase was formalized after a loan, or those who returned from loan like Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen or Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere.

We’ll also opt against a couple Chelsea loanees signings, if just to whittle our list. Ruben Loftus-Cheek was magnificent before a long-term injury at Palace, and Kurt Zouma probably just sits beyond the Top Ten.

Mainz loanee Jonas Lossl of Huddersfield Town fits the bill, too. And for injuries: Who knows how high  Benjamin Mendy would’ve surged up this list?

Stats culled from WhoScored and Squawka.

Honorable mention – Antonio Rudiger, Mario Lemina, Richarlison, Alexandre Lacazette, Mat Ryan, Bernardo Silva, Steve MounieKyle Walker, Alvaro Morata, Florian Lejeune.

10. Jordan Pickford, Everton — Under siege at Sunderland for most of last season, Pickford probably expected smoother sailing than this: the Everton backstop has been forced into making the most saves in the Premier League (95). Fifty-four of those required him to dive. Only four teams have allowed more goals than Everton, which explains why some of you might be scratching your head at his inclusion.

9. James Tomkins, Crystal Palace — I thought the signing was silly, but Tomkins is nearly unrivaled in terms of interceptions per game in league play. Palace hasn’t been a defensive powerhouse, but his former club West Ham looks terrible since he moved across London.

8. Davinson Sanchez, Tottenham Hotspur – There have been bumps along the way — Sanchez is 21 — but he’s blessed with the speed to make up for his and others mistakes. A fine passer, Mauricio Pochettino should only further benefit from his career progression.

7. Ahmed Hegazi, West Bromwich Albion — Hegazi’s 2757 minutes played are the most amongst field players in the Premier League (though Alfie Mawson, Harry Maguire, Jack Cork, and Lewis Dunk could pass him by playing more than an hour in their match-in-hand).

6. Harry Maguire, Leicester City — The Foxes badly needed to lower the age of their center back corps, and can count their purchase of Maguire from Hull City as a coup. Perhaps no player other than Wilfred Ndidi has been as influential for Claude Puel‘s bunch.

5. Romelu Lukaku, Manchester United — Lukaku started dispelling myths about his production versus big teams when he was one of the lone stars in United’s Super Cup loss to Real Madrid. While he’s been up-and-down in terms of goals in said contests, his hold-up play and work ethic have been better than expected. His 21 key moments (14 goals, seven assists) are even with Roberto Firmino and trail only Mohamed Salah, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero, and Leroy Sane. Anthony Martial is the closest United comparison, and he has 14. Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard have 12.

4. Pascal Gross, Brighton and Hove Albion — The Ingolstadt transfer’s promise was quickly realized, and he’s posted five goals and eight assists. On a team with the fourth-lowest goal total in the league, that’s impressive. The only players with more PL assists: De Bruyne, Sane, Dele, David Silva, Salah, Pogba. Gross also ranks third in the league in crosses per game.

3. Nemanja Matic, Manchester United — It’s hard to fin the numbers to meet the eye test, but Matic flat out makes his team better. Maybe it’s organization, maybe it’s toughness, but there’s little doubt United is better in the middle of the park while former club Chelsea has struggled to find the same form since he skipped town. Advantage: Mou.

2. Ederson, Manchester City — Look only to last season’s status of City net minders to know how important the sweeper-style passing keeper is to Pep Guardiola‘s side. The Brazilian has pushed himself into competition for the starting gig at one of the World Cup favorites.

1. Mohamed Salah, Liverpool —  There is no other answer here, and Harry Kane’s injury essentially gift wraps the Golden Boot to the Egyptian. There was a question as to whether he’d bring his Serie A flourish over to England, and that seems absurd now.

Matic on his wonder winner, what Mourinho said at halftime

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Nemanja Matic doesn’t score often, but when he does they seem to reverberate through the box score.

[ RECAP: Palace 2-3 Man Utd ]

Manchester United’s destroyer belted the crown jewel of the Red Devils 3-2 comeback win on Monday, waiting until stoppage time to give United its first lead.

He was asked where it ranks on his goals list.

“I think it was in the first 10, because I’ve scored only 10 in my life.”

The Serbian Steven Wright, everyone.

United was down 1-0 at the break, and went down 2-0 soon after the break. What did Mourinho tell them at the break?

“He said that we have to do more. He said he’s happy with how we fight, but it was not enough. We had to do more to win this game. We did in the second half after the second goal for Crystal Palace. We did exactly what he wanted from us.”

A pair of defensive errors put United behind the 8-ball, but there was no visible trepidation from the Red Devils away from home.

They’ll need to clean up their act before Sunday’s match at Liverpool, but the vibes will be just fine after a nice comeback win.

 

What’s happened to Chelsea? Neville believes it’s the loss of Matic

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The defending Premier League champions have looked a shell of themselves at times in the 2017/18 season, both domestically and in Europe, and it’s quite evident what the problem is, according to one former player.

[ MORE: Chelsea pummeled by Roma, Man United wins in Tuesday’s UCL action ]

Ex-Manchester United midfielder Phil Neville told BBC 5 Live that he believes Antonio Conte‘s biggest issue this season is the loss of Nemanja Matic in the midfield.

The Serbian midfielder exited the club just prior to the PL’s kick off this campaign after heading to Old Trafford, leaving a noticeable gap in the Blues’ heart.

“What’s gone wrong for Chelsea? One word. Matic,” Neville said following Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat at Roma on Tuesday.

“It’s as simple as that. The minute they sold Nemanja Matic was a mistake.

“When you had Matic sat in front of you, alongside [N’Golo] Kante, there was protection. Whoever made that decision needs sacking. That is one of the poorest decisions I have ever seen in the Premier League.

“If you ask any of those Chelsea players who they would want back, they would say Matic. Chelsea replaced him with someone who is going to do the same job – [Tiemoue] Bakayoko is not that player, he is not a holding midfield player.

“They didn’t replace Matic. I wouldn’t have let him out of the building, I would have chained him to the training ground walls.”

Mourinho: “We deserved victory”; Matic expects title challenge

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If you doubt whether Manchester United’s players are all-in with Jose Mourinho’s cagey system, listen to Nemanja Matic‘s post-match verdict after a defensive but effective 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on Saturday.

“They had more of the ball in the first half but we had more chances than them,” Matic said. “They play great football but it’s the result that matters in the end. If we continue like this we can challenge for the title.”

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

He’s not wrong, and this effort was far better and less safe than United’s disappointing scoreless draw with Liverpool two weeks ago. While there will be discussion about the entertainment value of counter-attacking a Harry Kane-less Spurs at home, Mourinho’s men were ready to go with commitment to the system.

Mourinho knew what he faced in Spurs, though he must’ve been surprised to see Mauricio Pochettino not go relatively like-for-like by inserting Fernando Llorente to start in Kane’s stead.

“It was tactically difficult for both and it was well refereed. It was strong, aggressive,” Mourinho said. “We knew if we had one defensive mistake we could lose and that’s what happened to them. We tried and we deserved the victory.”

“Today, every ball looked like the last ball of their careers.”

It was a performance Mourinho can be proud of, yet his noting that United didn’t show as much desperation against Huddersfield shows how hard it can be for a club to flip a switch from that battling, hard fouling mentality to a free-flowing style.

At this point, though, most hardware-hungry United fans will be content to keep in the race for the Premier League title, style or not. Now how will they react if United falls when Chelsea meets their tactics halfway next week?

Follow @NicholasMendola