Nemanja Matic has insisted that he now enjoys Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s full trust at Manchester United, while opening up on his “soldier” role in the Norwegian’s squad.
United lured Matic to Old Trafford from Chelsea in the summer of 2017, and he has since appeared in 112 games for the club in all competitions, scoring four goals.
The Serbia international was a fixture in Jose Mourinho’s line-up during his first season-and-a-half in Manchester, but began to fall down the pecking order after Solskjaer was drafted in to replace the Portuguese in December 2018.
Solskjaer favoured Scott McTominay and Fred above Matic at the start of the current campaign, and the midfielder was tipped for an exit in January after entering the final six months of his contract.
However, the 31-year-old forced his way back into the team after McTominay was struck down with injury, and impressed enough to earn a one-year extension which will see him remain at the club until at least 2021.
The coronavirus-enforced hiatus interrupted Matic’s progress, but he has been able to pick up from where he left off in the middle of the park since the resumption of the season on June 17.
The former Chelsea star insists he never lost faith in his own ability while on the sidelines, and knew that if he kept working hard in training he would eventually have the “chance” to prove his worth again.
Matic told Sky Sports of how he has turned his United career around: “I always try to be professional and give my best when I am on the pitch, it doesn’t matter if it is training or a game.
“I’ve played football for a long time already and this situation is normal, sometimes you don’t play and the coach doesn’t see you as a first option. You can accept it or not but you have to be professional.
“You have to work hard, wait for your chance and use it. This is exactly what I did.
“Now the situation is different, the coach trusts me more. I’m a soldier and I wait for the instructions from my coaching team.
“To be honest, when you don’t play of course you think about everything but in my head, I always try to be positive. I always believe in my quality and I know if work hard my time is going to come again.”
Bruno Fernandes Manchester United
Matic went on to hail winter signing Bruno Fernandes for the impact he’s had at Old Trafford over the past six months, admitting that the €55 million (£50m/$62m) playmaker has “made the difference” during United’s recent 14-game unbeaten run.
He said: “I’ve followed him for a long time because I played in the Portuguese league at Benfica.
“I knew he would bring quality for us. He played for a big club with a lot of pressure to win, but I didn’t think he would adapt so quick. From the first minute in the Premier League he made the difference.
“I’m happy for him and happy we have him in the team.
“He’s playing in the position where he needs to make the difference. He has all the ability to be the leader on the pitch.”
Matic also reserved praise for McTominay, who recently committed to a new contract with the Red Devils through to 2025.
“Scott knows that I am always there for him if he needs some advice, he is still learning,” he added.
“I am happy with how he has progressed, he is improving. I’ve said already a few times that he will be a very important player for Manchester United in the future.”