Matic says win over Liverpool ‘very important for our confidence’
Serbian also praises midfield partner Scott McTominay after another assured performance
Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic pressures Liverpool’s Sadio Mane during the Premier League match at Old Trafford. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images
Nemanja Matic believes victory against bitter rivals Liverpool is a timely boost ahead of Manchester United’s biggest game of the season against Sevilla.
The Champions League last-16 clash is evenly poised ahead of Tuesday’s return leg after David De Gea inspired Jose Mourinho’s men to a goalless draw in Spain.
United have won three straight matches since the first-leg draw, with morale-boosting successes against Chelsea and Crystal Palace complemented by Saturday’s 2-1 triumph over Liverpool.
Marcus Rashford’s first-half brace proved the difference as United increased their stranglehold on second spot in the Premier League and got a key week off to a flying start, with the FA Cup quarter-final against Brighton following Sevilla’s visit.
“Very important,” defensive midfielder Matic said of the Liverpool win. “Very important for our confidence to win this sort of game. We won against Chelsea and of course [on Saturday], so confidence will be on a high level, for sure.
“We have to see what we did well to continue like this. We have to know where we made mistakes to improve.
“The next game is very important for us, maybe the most important game of the season. We have to beat Sevilla to go through, so we give our best.”
Matic hopes to make the United fans proud again on Tuesday after a ruthless first-half display at Old Trafford, where things would have been far less nervy had Juan Mata managed to make it 3-0 with an acrobatic attempt.
“We managed to score two very quick goals thanks to Marcus Rashford, ” the Serbia midfielder said. “It was a great first half, especially.
“After that, we tried to defend our advantage, which we managed to do. We had also in the first half [a chance] to finish the game and make it 3-0 but we didn’t use our chance.
“They didn’t use some chances also but, in the end, the most important thing is three points.”
Another victory brought more praise for Scott McTominay.
The 21-year-old produced another sturdy performance in midfield with Matic, who has made no secret of his admiration for the academy graduate.
“Scott is fantastic,” he added. “It is a joy to play next to him. He fights for the team, he runs a lot.
“He plays like he already played five or six years in the Premier League, but he’s still young.
“He’s fantastic. He was one of the best players on the pitch, so I am happy that we have him in the team, and he needs to continue in this way.”
Matic’s post-match emotion contrasted starkly with those at Liverpool, who pushed to the final whistle after Eric Bailly’s own goal gave them a lifeline.
For goalkeeper Loris Karius, it was a frustrating afternoon and a first half to learn from.
“In the second half we did well but the first half of course was not really good so it’s frustrating in the end, because you ask yourself why we didn’t play as good [as we did in the] second half after the game,” he told his club’s website.
“That’s our own fault, we have to ask ourselves that question. It’s not easy to get something here if you only play good for one half so, of course, it’s disappointing.
“At the end, we could still get a point, but the first half wasn’t really good from us. We didn’t defend the counter-attack so good when they had their moments.”