Nemanja Matic has warned Europe’s heavyweights that Manchester United are back.
The Serbian star only made his United debut on Wednesday following his £40million transfer from champions Chelsea. But having been reunited with Jose Mourinho, he is already convinced the Red Devils are title contenders in England — and a European force once again.
Despite having little or no pre-season after being frozen out at Chelsea, midfielder Matic caught the eye during his first-half run out in the 2-1 win over Sampdoria in Dublin.
Mourinho described him as a “genius” post-match, and said Matic will be fast-tracked into the team despite his “lonely pre-season.”
Matic may not be the most high-profile arrival at Old Trafford this season but he could be the most effective.
And his no-nonsense play in the holding role ahead of the defence should give world’s most expensive footballer (for a few more hours at least!) Paul Pogba licence to thrill after a mixed bag last term in his first season back at United after four years with Italy’s Juventus.
“Manchester United is a big club, so the targets are always the biggest targets,” said Matic.
“We cannot set out what our plan is, because every club is then going to know what we’re going to do. But I’m very happy to be part of this team and to be playing with Paul Pogba and the other players.
“Paul is an amazing player. He’s still young, he can improve of course and he’s going to be important for us.
“We’ll see this season what we can do but I’m sure that we can be one of the favourites for the title. Manchester needs to be in a good position to always fight for the title because of Manchester’s history. It’s natural for them to fight for the title.”
Having won the Europa League, United are also back in the Champions League for the first time in two seasons. And Matic believes Mourinho’s men can send out a message that they can still be one of the continent’s kingpins.
“Of course,” he said. “Every game is a new challenge, so it’s going to be the same (in Europe). My decision to come here was easy when you have Jose Mourinho and when you have such a big club as Manchester United.”
Matic hopes to feature in Tuesday’s UEFA Super Cup clash against Champions League winners Real Madrid in Skopje, Macedonia ahead of their Premier League opener next Sunday at home to West Ham.
But despite not being up to the pace of his team-mates, Matic swears he won’t be long catching up.
“It’s not the same as when you do all the pre-season with the team but I’ll be ready soon. I’ll work hard in the next few days – I’ll be okay,” said the 29-year-old.
“It’s a big game against Real Madrid. They won the Champions League and showed again that they’re one of the biggest clubs in the world. It’s an interesting game for sure and a hard game for us, but we’ll be ready.”