Nemanja Matic Reportedly Close to Manchester United Transfer Ahead of Pre-Season

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistJune 26, 2017

Chelsea's Serbian midfielder Nemanja Matic (L) holds off Middlesbrough's English midfielder Adam Forshaw during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Middlesbrough at Stamford Bridge in London on May 8, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Ian KINGTON / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.  /         (Photo credit should read IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images)
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Manchester United could reportedly sign Chelsea's Nemanja Matic "before the end of the week" as the Blues are expected to finalise a deal for the Red Devils' "No. 1 option," Tiemoue Bakayoko of AS Monaco.

According to Mark Ogden of ESPN FC, with Bakayoko seemingly off the table and United failing to make any headway with signing Eric Dier from Tottenham Hotspur, Matic has become manager Jose Mourinho's next priority.

Ogden, citing unnamed sources, reported Bakayoko's arrival at Stamford Bridge will free up Matic to join United for a fee of up to £40 million.

United leave for their pre-season tour of the U.S. on July 9, and Mourinho is hoping to have the majority of his recruits in place before then.

However, particularly at the fee reported, targeting Matic ahead of Bakayoko's Monaco team-mate Fabinho seems almost unfathomable.

Monaco's Brazilian defender Fabinho celebrates after scoring during  the French L1 football match between Rennes (SRFC) and Monaco (ASM) on May, 20 2017, at the Roazhon Park stadium in Rennes, western France. / AFP PHOTO / DAMIEN MEYER        (Photo credi

Per BBC Sport, the Brazilian has been linked with a move to United and has even told Esporte Interativo, a TV channel in his home country, that the prospect of joining the Red Devils is a "tempting" one.

Football writer Ryan Baldi cannot understand why the club would opt for Matic instead:

Ryan Baldi @RyanBaldiFW

Matic would be an ok signing for #MUFC, Dier less so. Fabinho would be perfect though. Senseless to not consider him.

Nor can football journalist Shane Burns, who was even more succinct:

Matic turns 29 on August 1 and would seemingly be little more than a stopgap for the club, whereas Fabinho is only 23 and could occupy the spot at the base of their midfield for years to come.

Given the exceptional standard of his play, the Monaco man would also be a higher-quality option.

According to Squawka, Fabinho won substantially more tackles and aerial duels per 90 minutes than Matic last season, as well as making far more clearances and creating a slightly higher number of chances, though the Serb did make more interceptions.

Nevertheless, he's far less dynamic than the Brazilian, who is also versatile enough to play at right-back.

That said, Matic isn't a bad player by any means. He has helped Chelsea win two Premier League titles in the past three seasons, and as noted by Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News, he played a significant role last year:

Samuel Luckhurst @samuelluckhurst

Matic has literally just won the league and started 30 out of the 38 games https://t.co/HPbLnVi5ud

Marca's Chris Winterburn also sees a silver lining in buying him:

Chris Winterburn @cmwinterburn

I think Manchester United going after Matic is something that will split opinion. He isn't exciting yet people are desperate for a holding

Chris Winterburn @cmwinterburn

efficient in what he does and in a Jose Mourinho team that's vital.

Indeed, as stopgaps go, the club could do far worse than Matic, whom Mourinho worked with at Stamford Bridge, and signing him would be far better than failing to strengthen their midfield.

However, when he could cost £40 million while a player like Fabinho is seemingly attainable, it's difficult to see why United wouldn't go for the Brazilian when their ambition is to return to the top of the English game and remain there for the long term.