Nemanja Matic agrees new deal to stay at Manchester United following Serbian’s remarkable turnaround in form under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
- Nemanja Matic has signed a contract extension with Manchester United
- The Serbian has been impressive since winning his place back in the team
- The 31-year-old had looked certain to leave Old Trafford earlier this season
- Matic’s contract was due to expire in the summer but talks have been successful
Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic has completed a remarkable turnaround in fortunes by agreeing a new deal to stay at Old Trafford.
Matic, 31, looked certain to leave the club earlier this season when he struggled for form and fitness and was regarded by fans as a symbol of the previous unpopular Jose Mourinho regime.
However, the Serbian midfielder’s reintroduction to the first XI in December coincided with improved results for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side and talks have taken place successfully about extending a contract due to expire in the summer.
Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic has signed a new contract to stay at Old Trafford
‘We have agreed with him so he will stay. 100 per cent,’ confirmed Solskjaer, whose side are on a nine-match unbeaten run heading into Sunday’s Manchester derby at Old Trafford.
The news will lift United as they attempt to complete a first Premier League double over their noisy neighbours since Sir Alex Ferguson’s time in 2010 when Paul Scholes scored an injury-time winner at The Etihad.
Since then, City have dominated the Manchester landscape, winning four Premier League titles and a unique domestic Treble. Solskjaer acknowledges 10 years is too long to wait to beat City home and away.
‘That stat is not nice to hear. It is one of our challenges to close this gap,’ he reflected.
‘Every game against City is competitive. We have shown we can compete with them on a given day and we are building the squad to get the consistency we need.
‘I have seen improvement throug the season but it’s easier for me to say that when you are nine games unbeaten. I know we let ourselves down at times early in the season but some performances also didn’t get the deserved results.
Matic looked certain to leave the club earlier this season but has become an important player
‘The new signings we’ve made have given us that little edge. We are getting better but not going to get carried away being fifth in the table or unbeaten in nine. That used to be the norm and going through good patches should be the norm for this club.
‘I think we will become more consistent, challenge for trophies and close the gap in the league as well. Start by winning our individual battles and we will win more and more games against City.’
United have beaten Pep Guardiola’s team twice at The Etihad this season, in the Premier League and the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final, when Matic scored the only goal but was later sent off.
However, they have a dismal home record against City, losing seven of the last 10. Guardiola has won all three of his Premier League fixtures at Old Trafford and the 3-1 victory in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg proved decisive in taking him to Wembley again.
That defeat was a particular eye-opener for Solskjaer with City racing into a 3-0 lead by half-time. The United manager is sure his players won’t be rabbits trapped in the headlights again.
‘City outplayed us and our heads had gone,’ he admitted. ‘We didn’t control our emotions and when it got to half-time we sorted that out.
‘From then on we won 2-0 against them in the next three 45 minutes, but that first half cost us obviously to be in the final.’
Bruno Fernandes will get his first taste of the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Sunday
This will be Bruno Fernandes’ first Manchester derby and the Portuguese star has already taken on the mantle of attacking talisman in the absence of Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba. Pogba is closing in on a return from an ankle injury that has kept him out since Boxing Day.
Solskjaer is happy that Fernandes can guide younger players around him like 22-year-old Scott McTominay.
‘I expect my more experienced players to grab hold of the game,’ he said. ‘Bruno is a leader and so are others like Harry (Maguire), and you saw Victor (Lindelof) at Derby in the FA Cup.
‘Bruno can help Scotty. I wouldn’t call Scotty a kid but he is still learning the game. But Bruno knows it, he has been around, travelled, had his ups and downs. He has been in Italy and Portugal and has learned to deal with setbacks.
‘Scotty has been important for us but he needs games as well to get back to the level he was at before he was injured. It takes time when you’ve been out for two months. We are delighted to have him back so quickly.’
Maguire, Anthony Martial, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Matic should all return after being left out of the starting line-up at Pride Park on Thursday, though Odion Ighalo is also pushing to keep his place after scoring twice.
Solskjaer also has the option of drafting in young left-back Brandon Williams to form a five-man defence with Shaw shifting to the middle.
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