Wednesday 13 December 2017

Nemanja Matic: It was 'easy' to leave Chelsea and join Jose Mourinho at Manchester United

Nemanja Matic of Manchester United takes to the field ahead of the International Champions Cup match between Manchester United and Sampdoria at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Nemanja Matic of Manchester United takes to the field ahead of the International Champions Cup match between Manchester United and Sampdoria at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Jeremy Wilson

The adjective “genius” is usually employed only in respect of a certain type of sporting superstar. They must display supreme excellence in their chosen sport but a typical perquisite for such praise is also a rare creative flair.

Genius is usually the land of a Best, Maradona, Lara, Ballesteros or Federer. It was a telling insight, then, both into Jose Mourinho’s mindset and the bargain he believes that he has in Nemanja Matic, that he should use this particular description for his new £40 million signing.

Matic soon replied by saying that it had been an “easy” decision to leave Antonio Conte and the reigning Premier League champions to work again with Mourinho, this time at United.

“He thinks football; intelligent, a genius,” said Mourinho, after watching Matic play what were only his first 45 minutes of the entire summer against Sampdoria in Dublin on Wednesday night. It was a short burst but sufficient to wonder if Manchester United have actually pulled off the most significant transfer of the summer in asking Matic to choose them and persuading Chelsea to sell such an influential player to a direct rival.

It makes little sense for Chelsea, even allowing for his refusal to extend a contract that did not expire until 2019. Not only was Matic fundamental to Chelsea’s Premier League title win under Mourinho in 2014-15, but he was also again virtually ever-present last season under Conte, even if N’golo Kante’s midfield contributions prompted most praise.

Mourinho believes Matic will be “ready sooner rather than later”, even after largely training alone at Chelsea before his move to United on Monday, and he will be in strong contention to start against Real Madrid on Tuesday night in the European Super Cup.

"I will try to be 100 per cent ready," said Matic. "I hope that I will be an option for those games. It was strange [not playing in pre-season for Chelsea] because the team has played and had a good pre-season but, as you know, I trained alone in London. I think I will get better and better and I hope I will help the team to achieve something this season.”

Matic said that Mourinho’s influence has been crucial in his decision to leave Chelsea and he is now targeting a third Premier League title in four seasons.

“The manager was very important, the decision was easy when you have Jose Mourinho and such a big club like Manchester United,” he said. “The title is the biggest target and Manchester needs to be in a position to always fight for the title. With their history and with all the titles they have, I think it’s natural for them.”

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