With the transfer window opening in just under a week’s time, football clubs around the world will be making sure everything is set in place, ideally, before pre-season.
Manchester United are no different. They have already brought in highly-rated Benfica centre back Victor Lindelöf for just over £30m, but they need to cover a lot of ground in just eight weeks.
Ed Woodward, executive vice-chairman of Manchester United and the man in charge of securing José Mourinho’s targets, has been working through an extensive list, talking to player agents around the world, discussing fees and player terms.
Woodward struggled in his first season under David Moyes but, like with anything, with more time in a new role, you become accustomed to the surroundings.
It is good to have options in the transfer market, given the amount of times players go back on their words, agents influence things or certain stipulations between clubs are not met.
However, one player that appears close to becoming Man United’s second signing of the summer is Chelsea’s Nemanja Matić. The Serbian has been one of Mourinho’s most trusted players since taking over the Blues for the second time in 2014.
The expected price tag will be close to £40m, which seems a fair amount given that the defensive midfielder will be 29 years old when the new season starts. Obviously it is necessary to have a combination of youth and experience in any squad, but there has been a noticeable lack of mobility in Matić’s game last season under Antonio Conte.
While Matić may have played a big part in Chelsea’s title-winning success, it appears fans are worried about the midfielder’s robotic movement and decline over the last 12 months.
Circumstances can change a player’s game, such as a new manager coming in who does not have the same opinion as the one before him.
When Zlatan Ibrahimović was questioned on what his relationship with Mourinho meant to him, he responded: “Mourinho would become a guy I was basically willing to die for.”
Of course it’s difficult to say that Matić has the same relationship with Mourinho, but you can see that there is a great bond there and complete trust in one another – which is why Matić left Benfica to come back to Chelsea for the Portuguese boss.
It is also commonplace in today’s online world to write off a player completely who has a sub-par six months. Matić could quite easily return to his best he showed in the year under Mourinho at Manchester United with a good pre-season under him.
With ‘big names’ like Ángel di María and Radamel Falcao having troubled spells at Man United, the club’s hierarchy should now have learned that it is not always about the player’s reputation. More importantly, it is about their ability to fit in the manager’s system and complement their new teammates.
That is why when Sadio Mané was linked to the Red Devils last summer, some fans were reluctant to engage positively in the rumours. In hindsight, the Senegalese winger would have been an astute purchase and it is clear to see how well he is doing at arch-rivals Liverpool.
Why Man United fans might also be downhearted about this potential signing is because it might put a barrier up on recruiting AS Monaco’s midfielder Fabinho.
It would make more sense to bring the two of them in together this summer, with the Brazilian also doubling up as a right back to help ease the workload on Antonio Valencia, who will be 32 by the start of the new season.
Fabinho was one of Monaco’s standout performers last season and has dropped some subtle hints surrounding the speculation of moving to Old Trafford this summer.
If Matić can raise his level from last season’s performances, it will provide Paul Pogba with the freedom he has been begging for since rejoining Manchester United.
There is no doubt that when the Serbian midfielder is in the peak of his powers, he is a fantastic ball-winner and even gets in on the action.
It is easy to understand why Mourinho appears to want Matić, for his ability to sure up the defence and create space for Pogba to operate in, but it is not a foregone conclusion that he will be elevating Manchester United’s game to the next level.