There is never a shortage of storylines when Chelsea and Manchester United meet, but since the arrival of José Mourinho, wannabe King of the North, the narratives have been amped up even more. Adding to them this season is the saga of Nemanja Matić, who has gone from an oft-criticized, barely adequate undynamic hanger-on in Chelsea’s starting lineups to the player who surely would’ve saved us from all the problems this season. This is science, do not argue.
“I wouldn’t have let [Matić] out of the building,” says mouth-breathing hot-take artist Phil Neville. “I would have chained him to the training ground walls!” Of course that’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works. Certainly not anymore.
Here’s Thibaut Courtois, frequently involved in similar rumors, to explain how it does works.
“If a player nowadays wants to go to a team, then he has – I don’t want to say the power – but if he has a strong will to leave and join another team then it is hard for the club. You cannot just ignore him and say ‘you cannot leave’ because then you have a disappointed player who won’t play at his best. So obviously for us you give a player to another big team, but they are choices that are made in football and we have some quality midfielder, so I hope we can show on Sunday that we are better.”
Obviously you can try to convince a player to stay, but by all accounts, Matić had made his mind up to leave — José Mourinho even thanked him for that after the transfer was complete. Matić was close to leaving in 2016, but Conte convinced to stay and be a big part of the team, which he was. The same sales pitch didn’t work in 2017 with Tiemoué Bakayoko coming in, even if Conte envisioned keeping Matić alongside the new signing.
Sure, Chelsea could’ve kept Matić against his wishes and hoped that he’d be professional enough to keep playing at his best — something which we hadn’t consistently seen since that tackle and incident with Ashley Barnes. But Manchester United made an offer that we deemed good enough. The midfield was made whole again on transfer deadline day by the signing of Danny Drinkwater, giving Conte four options for two positions in midfield. The reason that hasn’t seemed good enough so far has been the multitude of injuries suffered by the ones not named Cesc Fàbregas of the four.
“I don’t know [if we’ve missed him]. We know Nemanja’s qualities, he is someone who last year gave us the balance as well. He decided to go to another team, so we won’t live in the past. Our midfield is very good, we have very strong players so I don’t know if we miss him. But if you have two injuries in midfield, then, of course, you can say yeah we miss Nemanja because he is another quality player and he is doing well in Manchester.”
-Thibaut Courtois; source: Independent
Courtois has a habit of keeping it real in his interviews, and he does so here as well. Matić was ready to move on from Chelsea. We need to move on as well.
“When he decided to go to a direct competitor then love stories are over,” said Mourinho when Frank Lampard turned up in City sky blue. Matić is now the enemy as well. That doesn’t take away from his accomplishments with the Blues of course, but those are things that don’t matter at this point.
"When I played there I always gave 100 per cent and we won two titles together and won two cups. I'm sure they respect that, but if not I don't really care.
"I feel when I played there, I showed them my quality. I don't have to prove to them anything. I just have to prove something to my new club.
“I am happy to be part of this club. I'm happy to be working with Mourinho. When I played at Chelsea I gave always my best to help the team but now Manchester United is my club and I will try to win there.”
-Nemanja Matić; source: Guardian
A must-win on Sunday, for multiple reasons then.