Nemanja Matic

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Dusan Tadic: From Serbia to Southampton, this is my story

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(Dusan Tadic talking to Joe Prince-Wright)

When I was growing up as a kid in Serbia, I had always dreamed of this moment. Last week we did it. We qualified for the World Cup. When you play for your country, everyone remembers you if you play in a World Cup. It is that simple.

I remember the 1998 World Cup when we were Yugoslavia, I had the sticker albums of all the players and I still remember that squad and who was playing.

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It is very nice to be there, at the World Cup, and we need to try and go step by step and see how far we can get. A lot of people are saying we can provide some surprises and not much is expected of us, but we don’t see it like that.

With Serbia, there will always be pressure.

We are the kind of players and people who do not know how to live without pressure. Even if we play against Brazil or some of the other bigger countries, we think we are better than them. That is the way we are. People expect us to beat the big teams and we have plenty of pressure from within.

It has always been that way, lots of pressure, but at the start it was all much simpler…


HOW IT ALL BEGAN

There were a lot of kids, everywhere, and we were always playing outside in the streets.

I think this is the best way to learn football, to play with your friends, street football, looking back, those are wonderful memories and I look back on that time in my life fondly.

My hometown, Backa Topola, was in the north of the country near the Hungarian border. It is a nice part of Serbia and I am very happy I grew up there.

Growing up, one of my best memories is getting my first pair of boots. There were Adidas and one of my fathers friends gave them to me. They were a special present and I wore them all the time. When it came to my first shirt, well, this was a little interesting. My father likes Partizan Belgrade and my uncle, well, he likes Red Star Belgrade. They are huge rivals and they would always get me a shirt from each club. Ah man, that was rough.

The shirt I held closest to my heart is one I had when I was 13. It was the shirt from the 1998 World Cup that Yugoslavia wore and had Predrag Mijatovic’s name on the back. You remember that shirt, the one with the big collar?  We did really well in that tournament and I wore that shirt everywhere. I still have it somewhere at home.

Our country has gone through a lot of tough times, especially when I was growing up, but I think playing football gave myself and other kids at the time an escape from everything else that was going on. Those were tough times.

When it is like this, it is important that kids play football or another sport because you are in nicer situations and have positive vibes around you. Because if you don’t play sport at times like that, I don’t know what you would do.

I am very happy I grew up in Serbia. You can have tough times, good times, but you learn a lot. I am incredibly proud of where I am from.

My father, that’s where my love for the game comes from. He watched every single game I played in growing up. He still does now. All of my family and friends, they would come to watch me and their support was incredible.

Every coach I’ve had, even if something was wrong, you still learn something from every single one of them. I am very lucky to have had so many good coaches over the years who I tried to learn from.

My idol growing up was Zinedine Zidane. I tried to learn from him. He did everything to perfection. Everything was easy for him. I loved watching him. He was a genius.

Not just the way he played but I also like his personality, the calmness he has off the pitch and the way he carries himself. After I watched him on TV I would go straight out into the street in Serbia to try and play like him.

I was lucky that I moved to a team like Vojvodina at the age of 14. They are known to have the best academy in Serbia, so there are many similarities to how things are here at Southampton with an emphasis on bringing through young talent.

Vojvodina always gave young players a chance and by the time I was 16 I was in the first team and then we went to the Europa League and it was a great time for me with wonderful coaches who pushed me to my maximum. I’m pleased that the pressure was so high when I started off there. That made me into the player I am today and helped me want to succeed and get better.

When I then moved to Holland, at the beginning I was looking around like “why is everyone so relaxed?” I was confused. After you lost a game, everyone was laughing and everything. If you did that in Serbia, that would be a big problem.

It took me time to adapt to the less intense atmosphere in Holland but I played with, and against, some great players who ended up with me here at Southampton. Graziano Pelle and Jordy Clasie from Feyenoord and then a young Virgil Van Dijk was just coming into the first team in my second year at Groningen.

When I played in the Netherlands, the league was very strong but a lot of players have left the Eredivisie and they are struggling a little with a lot of young players coming through.

But when I look back at my time in Holland with Groningen and FC Twente, this was the most important period of my life. I was at that stage when I had to grow as a player and a person. I am happy I was there. Holland has a philosophy of football which links up with how I like to play.

I learned a lot and it prepared me well for the challenge at Southampton.


SETTING RECORDS IN SUNNY SOUTHAMPTON

It wasn’t always my aim to come to England but everyone thinks about the Premier League because it is one of the strongest leagues in the world.

You want to show yourself in the strongest league and this was the right moment.

I knew back in 2014 that Ronald Koeman really wanted me. Southampton are a nice club with great supporters and I came here with a lot of new players in that summer of 2014 and some people expected a lot from me, but that didn’t bother me because as a player you have to trust in your qualities and show yourself and help your club.

After 2014 we had the two most successful years in Southampton’s history. Everyone was proud of that and I was pleased to be a part of it.

I have so many great memories here at Southampton. I’m in my fourth season and I have a strong connection with the fans who sing my song and support me no matter what.

From the first moment they accepted me very well. I try my best to entertain and make them happy and to give them joy. A lot of people come to watch and support you as a player so you need to try to give them enjoyment. Ii try to entertain.

I live in a marina called Ocean Village in Southampton and it doesn’t feel like you’re in England. When you say to people “oh, I live in England” everyone is like “it is rainy and cold there, why are you doing that?”

But Southampton is not like that. It is not like the rest of England. Here the weather is very good (at least compared to the rest of England!) and every day I am happy for that. Trust me.

So far we’ve had a lot of success but when I sit back and think about all of the good times we’ve had since I arrived, my winning goal at Old Trafford against Manchester United back in 2015 is the best.

We hadn’t beaten United away from home for 28 years and it was my first time playing at Old Trafford. I will never forget that moment. Ever.

Our aim here at Southampton, and my aim, is to get us back to Europe.

It is very important for us. Just as important is another good run in the cup, just like when we went to Wembley last season and lost to Manchester United. I don’t have any regrets about the League Cup final. None of us do. We did our best and I think we should have beat Manchester United. Anybody watching would have said that. We were unlucky. Sometimes, that’s football.

Someone told me earlier that a year ago today we were getting ready to play against Inter Milan in the Europa League at the San Siro. Wow. Time flies. We have to get back to playing in big games like that.

It will be hard to keep improving every year because there are so many quality teams in the Premier League but that is my main focus.

Well, that and my two kids. People say it a lot, but being a father has changed me as a person and I live a different kind of life. I am very happy with my life and my two children. I enjoy every moment with them.

I know on the pitch I can seem a little on edge. I’m a fierce competitor. Off the pitch I am easy going and I relax more. A lot more. Honest.

On the pitch I’m sharp and I show my emotions a lot more. I’ve always been like that, wearing my heart on my sleeve. On the pitch I want to win. We all do. We give everything for our team. We are all winners and we want to win every single game.

Every training session. Every game. Even when I play cards… I have to win. It is interesting that only this makes me happy. If you want to learn one thing about me from reading this, it is that I do not like to lose. Nobody likes to lose, but especially me. It is difficult to accept.

When some of the players play table tennis or basketball, I have to be the best. I can’t stand losing. I’ll throw things and get upset because I just want to win. It’s simple.

My teammates know that and some of the players I’m closest with, like Cedric Soares, will tell you that.

Sometimes Cedric and I go up to London on our days off and hang out and have dinner but with two young kids, I spend a lot of time with my family. I’m just looking forward to meeting Cedric in the World Cup if Serbia play Portugal. We owe him one. Portugal beat us in the qualifying for the European Championships. I want revenge and on the pitch I’d be in his ear all of the time. I wouldn’t stop.

I’d enjoy that…


WORLD CUP DREAM COMES TRUE

After reaching the World Cup last week, our first time as a nation since 2010, Serbia is fresh in my mind.

Perhaps the thing I’m most proud of in my career is to be the reigning player of the year in Serbia.

When I look at some of the past winners, Nemanja Matic, Branislav Ivanovic, Nemanja Vidic, Dejan Stankovic and guys like Mijatovic, it makes me very happy to be in that kind of company. It proved to me how much respect people in Serbia had for me after goals and assists for the national team and also what I’ve achieved here at Southampton.

This award motivates me to get better and better.

And the fact that I will hopefully be heading to the 2018 World Cup with Serbia, the first major tournament of my career, it is an incredible feeling. Even now when I look back at photos from the night we sealed qualification in Belgrade against Georgia, it makes me emotional.

When I look at the photo below, I get emotional. I was just so happy. Even though I’m crying.

Going into that final game of qualifying, as a team we were under the biggest amount of pressure I’ve ever felt with the national team.

If we didn’t win that game against Georgia and qualify for the World Cup, I think they would have taken our passports away and told us we could not come back any more! It was like that. Seriously.

Those games like that, where it is so incredibly important, we are not a country that goes to every tournament, so it was a huge success for all of us.

I’m already 28, so for my national team career this is massive because playing at a World Cup is something everyone remembers. To seal the qualification in Belgrade, in front of our own fans, it is something I will always remember. The celebrations that night were quite special…

It is something I will never forget but hopefully there are many memorable moments to come both with Serbia and Southampton.

Mourinho: Tactics involved targeting young Benfica backstop

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Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho knew that promising Benfica backstop Mile Svilar would be facing some big nerves.

The 18-year-old was making his UEFA Champions League debut, and Mourinho instructed his Red Devils to challenge the backstop at every turn.

[ RECAP: Benfica 0-1 Man Utd ]

That paid off when Svilar carried Marcus Rashford‘s free kick into the goal, the lone marker of a 1-0 loss that keeps United atop Group A and Benfica three points behind second- and third place.

“I knew how good the goalkeeper was, I told the players that. We had a little bit of a strategy, especially on set-pieces to make him uncomfortable. We put men around him on corners so he cannot come out. He risks a lot, but only top keepers do that. He was unlucky for the goal,” Mourinho said.

Svilar looked dejected after the game, apologizing to fans at the Estadio da Luz and getting consolation from a fellow Belgian in Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku.

Nemanja Matic laid out United’s strategy a bit more, from the BBC:

“The manager said to us to try and shoot and get some crosses towards their goalkeeper because he is young and playing in his first game. This is football and I know he is a great goalkeeper and I wish him well for the future.

“We had control, some difficulties in the first 30 minuets but then we controlled the pitch. We used our experience. We could not find the second goal but did not make any mistakes at the back.”

Rashford limped out of the game, and Mourinho says he initially thought it was cramps. Instead, it’s a problem with his left knee. Simon Peach of the Press Association quotes Mourinho as hoping the injury is not bad.

United completed more than 500 passes, doubling Benfica’s production. Some have been critical of Mourinho’s penchant to play it safe, and he winked at them after the match in calling his tactics “a crime.”

“We were in control, David De Gea did not have one save to make. I never felt we could concede a goal and were solid defensively. Sometime I feel being good defensively is a crime, but that is a way of getting results.”

Player ratings: Liverpool v. Man United

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Jose Mourinho will be the happier man as Manchester United struggled to get going in attack but ground out a draw at Liverpool on Saturday.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The 0-0 scoreline suggests how tense and tight the game was but there were still plenty of good individual displays in a massive rivalry game where United preferred to sit back and let Liverpool do the pressing.

Below are the marks out of 10 for the players on each team.


Liverpool

Simon Mignolet: 6 – Decent stop from Lukaku in the first half. Not tested apart from that.

Joe Gomez: 8 – Joined in the attack when he could and a solid display at right back. His promising form continues.

Joel Matip: 6 – A little shaky at time with the pace of Martial and Lukaku but held his own. Forced fine save from De Gea.

Dejan Lovren: 6 – Massive overreaction to the kick to his face from Lukaku but did okay apart from that.

Alberto Moreno: 7 – A really good display from the much-maligned Spaniard. Uncharacteristically solid defensively.

Emre Can: 6 – Missed a glorious chance early in the second half. It was a tough one but didn’t sort his feet out quick enough.

Georginio Wijnaldum: 6 – Pressed high and put Herrera and Matic under plenty of pressure.

Jordan Henderson: 5 – Sort of forgot he was on the pitch. Another sub-par display.

Mohamed Salah: 7 – Created problems for Darmian in the first half and should have scored but put his effort wide.

Roberto Firmino: 6 – Struggled to get into the game but did pull a great ball back for Matip’s chance.

Philippe Coutinho: 7 – Always lively on the ball and United were scared stiff of him.

Subs
Daniel Sturridge on for Coutinho (79th minute) – 5 – Tried to get in the right positions but didn’t have enough time
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on for Salah (79th minute) – 5 – Couple of decent crosses but that was it.
Dominic Solanke on for Firmino (87th minute) – N/A


Manchester United

David De Gea: 8 – Magnificent stop from Matip’s shot and a calming influence for United.

Antonio Valencia: 7 – Dominant display at right back as he kept Coutinho and Firmino largely quiet.

Chris Smalling: 6 – A little bit shaky in possession but did okay. Booked for a foul on Coutinho.

Phil Jones: 7 – Another good display from Jones who showed great composure once again.

Matteo Darmian: 6 – Solid but had his hands fall with Salah, particularly in the first half. Couldn’t get forward.

Ander Herrera: 5 – Late into plenty of challenges and you can see why Mourinho has favored Fellaini over him.

Nemanja Matic: 6 – Not his best display but did a decent job of pushing high when he could and putting his foot on the ball.

Ashley Young: 6 – What you see is what you get from Young. Worked his socks off out wide but final ball was lacking

Henrik Mkhitaryan: 6 – Involved in the Lukaku chance but not much else. Unsurprisingly subbed out.

Anthony Martial: 6 – Looked lively in spells and helped set up Lukaku for his big chance. Subbed in second half.

Romelu Lukaku: 5 – A frustrated figure all game. Missed a really good chance just before half time and late on tackles with Gomez and Lovren. Isolated and first touch was all over the place.

Subs
Jesse Lingard on for Henrik Mkhitaryan (63rd minute) – 5 – Struggled to get involved in the game out wide.
Marcus Rashford on for Anthony Martial (65th minute) – 5- See above.
Victor Lindelof on for Ashley Young (90th minute – N/A

Liverpool 0-0 Man United: Stalemate at Anfield

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  • 1 win in eight for Liverpool
  • United remain unbeaten in PL
  • No win in 7 PL games v United for Liverpool 
  • 1 shot on target for Man United

Liverpool and Manchester United played out a tense, tight 0-0 draw at Anfield on Saturday as the home side had the better chances but failed to take them.

[ MORE: Klopp questions United’s tactics

For the first time in history there have now been four successive draws between these bitters rivals across all competitions.

[ MORE: Player ratings | Three things ]

David De Gea made a wonderful save from Joel Matip in the first half and Romelu Lukaku squandered a glorious chance for United just before half time.

Jose Mourinho and United will be happier with the point as they go top of the table, momentarily, and remain seven points ahead of Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool after eight games of the Premier League season.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]  

Liverpool started the brighter of the two teams with Salah causing plenty of problems from the right flank but David de Gea wasn’t forced into anything other than routine saves early on.

United grew into the game and Lukaku finally started to get involved, especially down the right flank and Nemanja Matic spanked an effort which flew just wide from the edge of the box.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

De Gea made a stunning stop before the break as Roberto Firmino‘s cross found Joel Matip but his effort was wonderfully saved be De Gea’s outstretched left foot. The follow up fell to Salah who fired home but it was all about DDG’s superb reflex save.

Lukaku was lucky to escape a booking for a cynical hack on Joe Gomez and had a great chance just before half time but hit his tame effort straight at Simon Mignolet.

There was also another flash-point involving Lukaku where United’s striker appeared to clip Dejan Lovren in the face with his boot while Lovren was on the floor.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Liverpool were by far the better team early in the second half and Emre Can had a glorious chance to put them ahead but he hooked a lovely ball forward from Joe Gomez just over.

Mourinho sent on Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford with 25 minutes to go to try and create some problems for Liverpool’s defense and spark United into life.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ] 

It didn’t work as Daniel Sturridge and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain improved Liverpool after jumping off the bench but neither side could find a winner and they had to settle for a second-straight 0-0 draw at Anfield in their rivalry in the Premier League.

Watch Live: Liverpool v. Manchester United

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This is it. The big one has arrived.

Liverpool host Manchester United at Anfield on Saturday (Watch, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with Jurgen Klopp‘s side without a win in six Premier League matches against Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

United have won three of their last five PL trips to Anfield but Mourinho has won just once in seven games against Klopp all-time and it will be an intriguing, feisty battle as United are full of confidence and Liverpool know this is already a must-win fixture.

In team news Liverpool start Emre Can, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum in central midfield with Mohamed Salah and Philippe Coutinho out wide.

United go for a more defensive approach with Matteo Darmian at left back, Ashley Young on the wing and the duo of Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford on the bench with the latter picking up a knock. Eric Bailly is out after an injury on international duty.

Anthony Martial stars out wide. Chris Smalling starts in central defense with Phil Jones while Ander Herrera starts alongside Nemanja Matic in central midfield.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet; Gomez, Matip, Lovren, Moreno; Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Coutinho, Firmino, Salah. Subs: Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Klavan, Milner Oxlade-Chamberlain, Solanke, Sturridge

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Darmian; Herrera, Matic; Young, Mkhitaryan, Martial; Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Tuanzebe, Lingard, Mata, Rashford