Cristiano Ronaldo gesture shows Manchester United will miss Nemanja Matic – Tyrone Marshall

The untimely form of Matic

Manchester United’s midfield was an area that needed strengthening even before Nemanja Matic confirmed his time at the club was coming to an end.

After recent performances, Matic could see his options open up this summer. The Serbian has been a reassuring player in the center of the pitch lately and has mixed his positional discipline with an eye for passing further forward as well.

It sounds simple, but United’s ideal replacement this summer essentially has to be a younger, more mobile version of Matic. Someone like Declan Rice seems to fit the bill perfectly.

READ MORE: United vs Brentford player ratings

Matic is United’s only natural midfielder and in back-to-back Old Trafford games against Chelsea and Brentford he has stood head and shoulders above Scott McTominay, who is probably United’s closest match with anyone. one who can fill his shoes.

Matic created Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal against Chelsea with a brilliant loft-wedge from a pass and he again showed an eye for the cocky early in the second half against Brentford.

He had time to pick a pass into the center circle, but the chipped ball he found to free Bruno Fernandes was outstanding and deserved the finish, only for Fernandes to narrowly trail it.

When Matic was substituted with 20 minutes remaining, Ronaldo started to cheer on the pitch and then ran towards the center circle to hug his team-mate. After that dreadful season, it was a gesture that showed Ronaldo knew what United were going to miss when Matic wasn’t there.

Ronaldo’s role

If Erik ten Hag has watched United closely in recent weeks, he will surely have been impressed with the form of Ronaldo, who now has 24 goals this season.

Ronaldo won and converted the second-half penalty that put this game beyond Brentford and produced another display that showed he is much more than just a goalscorer despite his years of advancement.

The 37-year-old seemed to be having fun with Juan Mata playing right behind him. Mata’s neat flick played Ronaldo through the first half, with a penalty appeal overturned when he went down. Minutes later, Ronaldo showed his talent to return the favor, creating a chance which Mata put wide with his right foot.

Ronaldo was so keen to make his mark defensively that in the first half he fought back to place a solid sliding tackle on Bryan Mbuemo as Brentford threatened to break. Ronaldo even shoved McTominay aside as he closed in on his prey.

It has certainly looked like a slightly different Ronaldo in recent weeks. Maybe he’s eager to impress Ten Hag, but his movement has been noticeably more dynamic, dropping deep and to either wing and getting much more involved in the builder’s play.

Momentum for Ten Hag

When Ralf Rangnick was asked before the game whether United should play and win for the fans on Monday night, he agreed with the sentiment but also stressed the importance of keeping fit and energized for the season. next.

It’s a shorter than usual time before 2022/23 kicks off on August 6, so perhaps the idea of ​​finishing this season in good shape has some merit, to give Ten Hag a boost. platform to build on when he takes over. in June.

That certainly explains Rangnick’s desire to continue picking a solid squad, with neither Alvaro Fernandez nor Alejandro Garnacho coming off the bench against Brentford.

There’s certainly a lot of work for Ten Hag to do this summer, but maybe if United can finish with a bang it will make their job a little easier.


It was another night of protests at Old Trafford and they got plenty of TV coverage, although the events may have conspired against the impact one might have expected.

The idea of ​​a 73rd-minute walkout sounded good, but United had scored their third goal a minute earlier, with very few fans rising from their seats to leave the floor.

The Red Army’s singing section threw red, green and gold smoke bombs as the clock struck 73 minutes and held up a banner encouraging a walkout, but very few left the ground. Noise and color certainly had an impact, though.

There were five minutes on the clock when the first chant of “Stand up if you hate the Glazers” rang through Old Trafford and while thousands stood up, there were also many who didn’t.

The chant resurfaced several times throughout the game, but it seems like it can sometimes die out once it first airs. It shows the battle groups like The 1958 face to get the numbers needed to make their protests really make headlines.

Experience Replacement

The five senior United players leaving the club at the end of their contracts this summer are aged 29 and over and while they will need to be replaced in the squad, Ten Hag will also need to find ways to replace their experience.

Matic, 33, has been a calming presence in midfield in recent games and Mata, 34, has shown his class in the final weeks of his time at the club.

It was interesting to see Mata switch to Anthony Elanga just before kick-off to give final instructions. Elanga listened carefully to the Spaniard’s latest advice and started the match well. It may be a coincidence, but experienced players can offer that kind of advice on the pitch and it can be invaluable to a manager.

The departure of Matic, Mata, Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani is a chance to refresh the team, but sometimes there is no substitute for experience.

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