Source: Manchester United via Facebook

Nemanja Matic was an absolute bargain at £40 million and Jose Mourinho knows it. At the time, a few Manchester United fans were left scratching their heads; was this simply Jose’s way of settling for a ‘tried and tested’ top flight footballer? As it turns out, Matic was the final piece in Mourinho’s jigsaw. The Serbia international makes the Red Devils tick and he could be the biggest difference maker of all in United’s bid for the Premier League title.

According to ratings at WhoScored, Matic has been the fifth best player on show at Old Trafford so far this season – an impressive feat given it is his debut campaign at the club. His average rating of 7.45 is more than respectable and he has settled quickly to life in Manchester. At 29 years old, he is well within his prime and the former Chelsea man has shown no signs of slowing down just yet. He is expected to see out his three-year contract with the Red Devils.

With next summer’s World Cup fast approaching, Serbia will be hoping that Matic is able to maintain his current form for the remainder of the campaign. Having managed to fend off the likes of Wales and the Republic of Ireland, Slavoljub Muslin’s men have already booked their spot in the competition and the United star will be influential next summer. A full year of regular football at Old Trafford under his belt will see Matic develop even further.
With many of the major footballing powerhouses performing below their potential in recent months, many football fans are looking towards the outsiders and having cruised through a World Cup qualifying group including Ireland and Wales, Serbia are available at 100/1 in international football betting markets to lift the trophy next summer. The likes of Dusan Tadic and Aleksandar Mitrovic, both of whom play for Premier League clubs, will be in contention to make the squad too and their familiarity with Matic’s style of play could prove vital throughout next summer’s tournament.

But for now, his main focus will be on United and masterminding Mourinho’s men to a first top flight success since Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement back in 2013. On paper, he doesn’t stand out as one of United’s main men, but it would be foolish to ignore just how influential he has been. Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan may receive plaudits for their flair and creativity, but Matic’s dogged role is just as important.

United are currently second in the Premier League table, two points behind runaway leaders and arch rivals Manchester City. Back in his Chelsea days, Matic delivered a memorable performance in a 1-0 away victory at the Etihad Stadium; arguably one of Mourinho’s greatest ever performances. Red Devils fans will be expecting big things from the Serbia man in both derby fixtures this campaign, especially if Pogba and Marouane Fellaini are back from injury.

Mourinho prefers physical, energetic midfielders and Matic fits the bill perfectly. Viewed as a risky purchase by some, he has already proven his doubters wrong and the Serbia star is operating as one of United’s most influential figures. Winning the title won’t be easy but if Matic performs at his brilliant best, he can spearhead Mourinho’s midfield for the most part of the season.