Throwback Thursday: The Serbian who swapped Chelsea for Man Utd


Mason Mount’s transfer from Chelsea to Manchester United has been in the spotlight in the past few days, with the English midfielder at long last completing his switch on Wednesday. 


Many names have made the move from Chelsea to Old Trafford, including Juan Mata in 2014 and the late great Ray Wilkins in 1979, while some others have gone the other way, including current Bradford City manager Mark Hughes in 1995. 


With that in mind, this week for Throwback Thursday, we’ve decided to take a look at the last player to switch Stamford Bridge for Old Trafford back in 2017. 


Nemanja Matic featured for Chelsea across two spells. He signed from FC VSS Kosice in August 2009 to start his first spell at Stamford Bridge, but featured little under Carlo Ancelotti, as he was unable to break into the midfield of Michael Ballack, Michael Essien and Frank Lampard, and was loaned out to Eredivisie club Vitesse the next season in the hope of more game time. 


When Chelsea signed David Luiz from Benfica, Matic went the other way as part of the deal and joined at the end of his loan with Vitesse. Within just a few seasons' at Benfica, he became a standout player for the Portuguese side, which caught the eye of then Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho. 


If his first spell at Stamford Bridge was one to be forgotten, his second was anything but. Matic was a mainstay in the Chelsea midfield under Mourinho and was given a WhoScored rating of 8.48 on his first start for the Blues, that coming in a 1-0 victory at Manchester City. His average WhoScored rating was 7.63 for the 2013/14 season having only made 17 appearances, and was second only second to Eden Hazard (7.68). 


The following season saw Chelsea win the Premier League and League Cup, while Matic earned a 7.50 WhoScored rating across the league season after featuring in 36 league games. Only Cesc Fabregas (7.62) and Eden Hazard again (7.96) had higher ratings that season. 


After that, though, things went downhill for Chelsea and Matic, as the club suffered a 10th-placed finish, picking up 37 fewer points than the previous campaign. Matic picked up a WhoScored rating of 6.98, his worst for Chelsea in the league. Rumours surrounded Matic’s future at the club, but the arrival of Antonio Conte ahead of the 2016/17 season, persuaded Matic to stay. 


While Matic struggled to hit the heights of his first two campaigns, earning a WhoScored rating of 7.01, he picked up eight goal contributions in the Premier League with Chelsea under Conte. 


Throwback Thursday: The Serbian who swapped Chelsea for Man Utd


However, Matic was keen to reunite with former manager Jose Mourinho, with whom Matic enjoyed his best years with, and on the 31st of July 2017, Matic signed a three year contract with United for around £40m. He made 49 appearances in his first season in all competitions, while his only Premier League goal was a 91st-minute winner as United came from two goals down against Crystal Palace in March 2018. 35 of those 49 appearances were from the outset in the Premier League while one was an appearance off the bench. 


He also picked up his highest recorded WhoScored rating that season in the FA Cup, picking up a 9.82 for scoring and assisting in a 2-0 win over Brighton just 12 days after his winner against Crystal Palace. However, they reached the final and lost to the side he had just left the previous summer, Chelsea. 


In the following seasons, his game time decreased substantially, making just 38 appearances for United in 2018/19 and just 21 league appearances in the 2019/2020 campaign. In Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer’s second full season in charge of the Red Devils, Matic made just 12 starts, coming off the bench eight times, playing a little over 1,100 minutes, a far cry from the 3,119 minutes played in his debut campaign at Old Trafford. 


Last summer, Matic reunited with Jose Mourinho for a third time at Roma, where they went on to reach the Europa League Final, narrowly losing to Sevilla. It is clear Mourinho and Matic are a match made in heaven, having now signed the Serbian defensive midfielder for a third different club, and making over 200 appearances under the Portuguese mastermind, and with his contract extended until 2024 back in April, that number will rise further in the coming campaign.

Throwback Thursday: The Serbian who swapped Chelsea for Man Utd