While the Blues did procure £40 million and Tiemoue Bakayoko as replacement, the club were still selling a regular starter from their title winning side to a Premier League rival.
Jose Mourinho, though, was lapping it up.
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It was at the Special One’s hand that Matic was re-signed by Chelsea in 2014 and they cut a brilliant duo. The Serbian was nothing short of a stalwart in the Blues’ romp to the title under Mourinho in 2015.
However, to ay Mourinho and Matic’s title defence the following season was poor, would be putting it mildly. In fact, only Leicester’s 2016-17 performance saves that Chelsea side from the status as the worst ever champions.
Matic was one of a number of Chelsea stars whose performances fell through the floor. Eden Hazard notoriously went off the radar while Willian was practically the only forward player pulling his weight.
This was no more apparent than in an October clash with Southampton that ended in a 3-1 surrender at Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho’s tactics came into question too and particularly as regards Matic. In fact, the Portuguese famously sub-subbed him.
The Serbian started on the bench, only to replace Ramires at halftime with the scores level. After Pelle fired Southamtpon into a 3-1 lead, however, an uninjured, caution-free Matic was subbed off for Loic Remy.
It’s the ultimate footballing humiliation and one usually reserved for terrible cameos in games – we’re looking at you Emmanuel Eboue.
Yet, although Matic wasn’t exactly lighting up the game, he was far from having a nightmare either. The reason for the move was later linked to the midfield’s questionable first touch. Tenuous, anyone?
Nevertheless, Mourinho has since revealed what the 29-year-old said when he made a quick and unexpected return to the bench.
Speaking to The Times, the United boss recalled: “I play him minute 45 and took him off minute 70. The press wants a story, the press wants blood.
“But he says to me, ‘I’m not happy, but it’s my fault because the way I was playing I understand the change. So let’s keep going.’
“We didn’t keep going because a few weeks later I was sacked. But he was one of ‘my guys’”.
That’s certainly a tamer reaction than you’d expect but then again, he can only be so bitter towards Mourinho when he’s rejoined him at United. And, on current form, they’re reaping the benefits.
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