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Why Nemanja Matic's international retirement serves as critical transfer reminder

The Serbian midfielder turned 32 earlier this month.

The Serbian Football Association have confirmed that Nemanja Matic has retired from international duty after 12 years of service.

Since making his national team debut in 2008, Matic has earned 48 caps and last appeared at a major competition at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

In a statement on Friday, the SFA explained they respect his decision:

Other than saying it was time for younger players to take over, Matic did not state any other specific reasons for quitting. We respect his decision. He is 32 years old and he's had an exerting club season. European club football is demanding and hence we are aware that we'll have to inject fresh blood into the national team.We talked a few days ago. I called him on the phone, we also agreed to have coffee, if our time and obligations allow it. It was an extremely pleasant and fair conversation. He is determined to put an end to his national team career. The head coach also spoke to him, about which you will surely hear more at a press conference on Monday. That is Nemanja's decision that we must respect.

Matic turned 32 years old earlier this month, but still remains an integral part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's plans due to a serious lack of defensive options in midfield.

He's the only out-and-out holding midfielder Solskjaer has at his disposal - not ideal when he needs to revert to a 4-3-3 from his preferred 4-2-3-1 system.

It's not a secret Matic has no more than two or three years left in him as a quality squad option at Manchester United, which seriously calls for a long-term replacement.

United's priority to secure Jadon Sancho's services seriously limits the chances of a top-class midfield signing this summer though, given the circumstances surrounding COVID-19.

However, if the Reds are looking for a marquee acquisition this time next year and Sancho is wearing the number seven shirt, a holding midfielder must be targeted.

Declan Rice, Wilfried Ndidi and Thomas Partey are three names on plenty of United fans' lips, but all three would demand big investment.

A year on from now though, the club would hopefully be in a much stronger position to do so and if Sancho isn't the marquee arrival, one of the three above should be.

Going into the 2020/21 season, it's likely the options to fit into Solskjaer's midfield pivot will again be Matic, Scott McTominay, Fred and Paul Pogba.

Let's hope injuries are, for once, kind...

Be sure to check out the latest Fanzine Friday on Stretford Paddock with this weeks guest, Steve Black from United We Stand...