Nemanja Matic is feeling at home in Manchester but Jose Mourinho’s relentless drive for more means the midfielder will never get too comfortable at United.
After helping Chelsea to win their second Premier League crown in three years, the 29-year-old upped sticks and headed north in the summer to re-join his former manager at Old Trafford.
A trusted figure described by the Portuguese as a “Jose Mourinho player”, Matic made light of a disrupted pre-season by hitting the ground running at Old Trafford.
No outfield player has played more league minutes for United this season and the unassuming defensive midfielder relishes the demands put on him by Mourinho.
“He always wants the best,” Matic told Press Association Sport. “He always wants to win.
“Of course, him as a coach, if you play good he always thinks that you can play better. This is good. He always asks you to do more.
“I am happy that we work with him and he’s a coach who won many, many trophies in his career and for sure we can learn a lot of things form him.
“He won many things. The coach is good if he won the trophies. He won in every country he has been, he has won a lot and that’s why they call him special.”
Mourinho oversaw Europa League, EFL Cup and Community Shield glory during his first campaign in the United dugout, while his reinforced side are now dreaming of FA Cup and Champions League success.
Matic is as realistic as his manager when it comes to making up the Premier League deficit given Manchester City’s eye-watering advantage, but the midfielder also shares his manger’s determination to keep plugging away.
“I am always positive,” he said. “Obviously the gap between us and City is big, but we will fight until the end.”
Matic takes confidence from last weekend’s “very important” 2-1 comeback win against Chelsea – efforts against his former side that were rewarded with some downtime ahead of Monday’s trip to Crystal Palace.
The defensive midfielder revealed that he had been given a three-day break by holding up a piece of paper in an Instagram post, making reference to the note from Mourinho handed to him on the field last Sunday.
Matic laughed and shook his head when asked if he could say what was written on it, but he was more forthcoming when it came to life off the field.
“My family is enjoying it,” he said at the re-opening of the Red Cafe, supported by United’s official club coffee partner Melitta.
“My kids are in school here, so everything is fine.
“I am happy to be part of this club, so they follow me everywhere. My son is now a big Man United supporter. Of course, he supports me always.
“He also started to train a little bit. Everything is fine, we are really happy, and I am glad they enjoy it.”
Matic’s son Filip is such a United fan that he recently celebrated his seventh birthday with an extraordinary Old Trafford birthday cake.
The defensive midfielder is hoping to soon give his son more to celebrate, with United looking for silverware and Serbia heading to the World Cup this summer.
“It is very important for my country, for our supporters, so everyone is looking forward to that,” Matic said.
“Everyone is happy that we will compare our qualities with the best teams in the world.
“We have a good team also. Of course, we don’t go there as a favourite, but I hope we can surprise.”
Given the work ethic instilled by Mourinho, it would be more of a surprise to see Matic falter for Serbia or United.
“We have the Champions League, we have to fight for the quarter-final,” he added.
“We play Sevilla at home. We respect them a lot, but we are Manchester United, we know what we have to do.
“We also have the FA Cup, so we will go game by game, step by step and see what we can do.”