Nemanja Matic has made it clear that Manchester United will prioritise winning the Premier League this season after Jose Mourinho’s side slumped to sixth spot last year.
United had chances to breach the top four last season but their involvement in the latter stages of the Europa League meant that, by April, their focus was essentially on reaching Champions League football by claiming their first ever Europa League trophy. Draws with Manchester City, Swansea and Southampton, alongside defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, consigned Mourinho’s men to sixth and 24 points behind winners Chelsea.
Integral to that Premier League winning side was, of course, the big Serbian, who completed a £40m move to Old Trafford from Stamford Bridge last week. Both Antonio Conte and Gary Cahill have remarked on the damaging effect to the Chelsea side his departure will have and United fans, in turn, have already witnessed the aggression and solidity he brings to the dynamic at United following his sensational performance during a 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.
And Matic, speaking soon after the game in Skopje, noted that Mourinho’s men would prioritise winning the Premier League – which kicks off this season
“We have to rest well because we have a very important game on Sunday against West Ham,” he said. “It’s the start of the Premier League and it’s very important for us.
“As you know the Premier League is the main target. There is a lot of games, it’s a long season but I expect us to do well.”
“I think we played everything so we don’t lose this game. We played against a very good side. Very experienced.
“They know how to play these games. We are not happy that we lost but did everything. We had an opportunity to equalise, Marcus had a good chance and didn’t score, unluckily for us, but this is football.”
Mourinho has signed Matic with this exact target in mind. His side lacked the perennial solidity and structure to their midfield to mount a meaningful title challenge last term and he knows, through experience, that the Serbian can bring exactly that – a presence capable of outmuscling opponents every week, grinding them down bit by bit and building the kind of inexorable sense of continuity that any title winning side must have.