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Matic moves north

Nemanja Matic has today completed a permanent transfer to Manchester United.

The Serbian departs Stamford Bridge having played a pivotal role in two Premier League title triumphs, as well as winning the League Cup with the Blues.

Those trophies all came in his second spell at the club, after re-joining Chelsea in early 2014 to add steel and strength to the midfield.

During his first period at the club, in 2009/10, he made three substitute appearances in a championship-winning season. He moved to Benfica in January 2011 as part of the deal which brought David Luiz to Stamford Bridge.

Three years later, Matic returned from the Portuguese club and his physical presence and ability to win the ball back quickly made him an important member of the Chelsea side. He showed how important he would be to the side in his first Premier League start away at Manchester City, in which he produced a man-of-the match display. 

On a night when we won the game and became the first team to stop City scoring at their home ground for more than three years, Matic was superb and came out on top in his individual battle with Yaya Toure. He also gave Chelsea supporters a first glimpse of his long-range shooting ability when he crashed a left-footed strike against the post.

Matic was ineligible to play for us in the Champions League that season, as we reached the semi-finals, but he started every Premier League game for the remainder of the season, including a 4-0 win over Tottenham, a 6-0 thumping of Arsenal and a 2-0 triumph at Anfield, which severely dented the home side’s title aspirations.

With Cesc Fabregas brought in ahead of the following campaign, the pair formed an effective partnership as the two deeper-lying midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Matic scored his first goal for Chelsea in an early-season 6-3 win at Everton and followed it up with the winner in a Champions League game against Sporting Lisbon.

He played in every league match until the start of December when he was suspended for our trip to Newcastle, an afternoon on which we suffered our first defeat of the campaign.

A sending-off against Burnley, when he was harshly punished for reacting to a terrible tackle, ruled Matic out of our League Cup final win over Tottenham, but his emotional pre-match team-talk helped inspire the side to glory, and he quickly returned for some important victories.

Matic’s role in protecting the back four was vital as the team produced a brilliant defensive display in a goalless draw at Arsenal which edged us closer to the title. After the trophy was eventually secured, courtesy of a win over Crystal Palace, he was one of six Chelsea players named in the 2014/15 PFA Team of the Season. 

In what was a difficult 2015/16 campaign for the whole side, Matic made his 100th Chelsea appearance in a 1-0 win against Arsenal and scored a wonderful goal away at Everton.

The arrival of Antonio Conte last season led to a tactical change and though the Italian experimented with different formations early on, Matic was constantly selected. The decision to move to a 3-4-3, with the Serbian partnering N’Golo Kante, led to a 13-game winning sequence and by the end of October Matic had an impressive four assists to his name.

It was during that run he made his 100th Premier League appearance at Middlesbrough and he played every league game up until the away win at Manchester City in December, which he missed through injury.

In the reverse fixture against Pep Guardiola’s side, Matic was introduced at half-time and his presence enabled us to nullify City’s attack and successfully preserve our 2-1 advantage.

The midfielder had to wait until April for his first goal of the season but the Wembley thunderbolt in our FA Cup semi-final win over Tottenham is one which will live long in the memory.

He then netted his maiden Stamford Bridge strike in a 3-0 win over Middlesbrough and started the victory at West Bromwich Albion, which earned him a second Premier League winners’ medal.

In total, he made 154 Chelsea appearances and scored seven goals.

We thank Nemanja for his fantastic service and wish him well for the future.