Football: Solid Matic can unleash Pogba's flair, says McClair

Nemanja Matic plays the ball during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Arsenal.
Nemanja Matic plays the ball during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Arsenal.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • The signing of workhorse Nemanja Matic should allow Manchester United to make better use of gifted France midfielder Paul Pogba in the coming years, according to the club's former forward Brian McClair.

United manager Jose Mourinho acquired the tall Serbian defensive midfielder from Premier League champions Chelsea for a reported fee of £40 million (S$71.8 million) on a three-year contract on Monday.

"United need someone who sits there behind Pogba, who played his best football when (current United captain) Michael Carrick also played last season," McClair told ESPN.

"Michael is coming to the end of a wonderful career, so United need someone who can do something similar but who will be more mobile in the coming years."

With Pogba a regular starter for United, Matic looks set to compete for a midfield slot with the 36-year old Carrick, Spaniard Ander Herrera and Belgian Marouane Fellaini.

"In the short term, I could see that someone like Matic would fit in," McClair added.

"In some games, Paul Pogba has been in the wrong place and it has stifled his abilities."

Matic, who turned 29 yesterday, won two Premier League titles in his second stint with Chelsea, having been offloaded to Portuguese giants Benfica in 2011 during his first spell with the club under Mourinho.

With Matic boosting the array of ball-winners at United, Pogba should be allowed to play further upfield to make use of his greatest skills.

"Pogba's attributes are all about attacking," said McClair. "He can find a pass, beat a player and has fantastic skills. He can score goals. For him to have the best opportunity of success at Old Trafford, Pogba needs to be playing in the final third of the pitch."

Matic could make his competitive debut for last season's Europa League winners United against Champions League holders Real Madrid in the Uefa Super Cup showdown next Tuesday.

The Serb is United's third signing this summer, following Romelu Lukaku from Everton and Victor Lindelof from Benfica.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2017, with the headline 'Solid Matic can unleash Pogba's flair: McClair'. Print Edition | Subscribe