Fiercely ambitious Nemanja Matic would not consider his first season at Old Trafford a success even if Manchester United won the FA Cup.
Jose Mourinho oversaw Europa League, EFL Cup and Community Shield success in his first campaign at the helm, but the FA Cup is their only realistic shot of silverware this term after Tuesday’s shock Champions League exit to Sevilla.
Manchester City’s eye-watering lead and swashbuckling football means the Premier League is already beyond them – a competition Matic won as a Chelsea player last season.
Just like his manager, the Serbia defensive midfielder is driven by a hunger to win trophies and that shapes his view of this first campaign at Old Trafford.
Asked if he would consider this season successful if United won the FA Cup, Matic said after a pause: “I think no.
“Because I always want to win more and more, but in the Premier League you have six or seven teams who want to win the league.
“It is not possible to always win, but if we win the FA Cup it is good, but not perfect.
“You have four competitions in the season, if you win one for me it is not enough, but you always have to do your best.
“In the Premier League when you are in the first four this is not perfect but is good to play for the Champions League next season.
“If you win the FA Cup I cannot say it is a successful season, but it’s a good season.”
Matic has vowed to “fight to the end” and live up to the club’s lofty expectations as the “expectation is always to win” when you play for United.
Tottenham stand in their way in April’s Wembley semi-final – the same opposition and same stage of the competition that Matic scored an outstanding goal for Chelsea last season.
The defensive midfielder is a shoo-in for the starting line-up given Mourinho’s trust in him, going as far as to call him “an island of personality, of desire and control” after the quarter-final win against Brighton.
The United boss castigated the rest of his team-mates after Saturday’s victory, but there was no grand gesture towards his trusted lieutenant.
“We just shake hands and he said congratulations for the goal,” Matic said of his reaction after the game. “That is it.
“We didn’t have an opportunity to speak because he had to talk to the media. I have to go off to the national team. We will speak when I come back.”
Matic claimed not to have seen Mourinho’s remarkable pre-match press conference and relishes the pressure of playing for the Portuguese.
“I didn’t have many managers in my life,” he said. “He is special because he wants to win always. You can see when we lose a game he cannot accept that.
“Probably that’s why he won more than 20 trophies in his life. It is very difficult to work with him because he always wants more and more.
“Even if you win the league he wants to win again next season. He is like this and the players need to be ready for that.
“Because at this high level and Manchester United and where I used to play Chelsea, the players need to be ready for that because the pressure is big.
“Everyone expects you to win every game. Obviously, it is not possible, but supporters always expect. It doesn’t matter if you are tired or not, supporters want high-quality football. It is normal.”
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