Nemanja Matic has many great memories of watching both Manchester United and AC Milan as a youngster and, ahead of our Europa League last-16 clash with the Italian side on Thursday, the midfielder reflected on those players who had inspired him growing up.
As well as following the Reds, the Serbian kept an eye on a number of great Balkan players who were making their mark in Serie A. Dejan Savicevic and Boban were two who stood out for the young Nemanja, with the duo part of Serie A and Champions League-winning Milan sides.
In an exclusive interview with the Milan edition of our official matchday programme, United Review, Matic told us:
“For me, Savicevic was the best player. I think if you ask Milan supporters who remember him playing, then they will say the same because he was a special player and at that time, for me, he was one of the best in Europe.
“Boban was great also and on the other side you had [Dejan] Stankovic at Inter Milan, he was amazing and he won many things with them. I had the opportunity to play with him a little bit, also with [Nemanja] Vidic… so yes the Italian league for me was probably, back in the 90s, the best league in the world.”
Looking ahead to Thursday’s first leg clash, Matic discussed the qualities of two familiar faces in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Diogo Dalot.
“First of all, they are both great people,”
declared our no.31.
“Zlatan is a little bit more experienced; Diogo is just starting out in his career and has 15 more years to play and Zlatan only has 10,”
he added, with a smile.
“It will be great to see them but I hope they don’t have a great day today! Of course, we wish them all the best in Serie A. They are top players, especially of course Zlatan. If he is going to be ready for the game then for sure he will try to show again his qualities, but I can recommend to him to avoid me!” [Laughs]
Assessing the impact Dalot has made at the San Siro during his loan spell this term, Matic added:
“I have seen a couple of games and he’s been playing well every time he plays. I think it was a good move for him, to get some minutes and to play at another big club.
To play at Milan is like playing for Manchester United, you get lots of pressure, many supporters follow you, so yes he has done well and I hope he will continue that way and then one day come back and play here.
Read the full interview with Nemanja in Thursday’s United Review – order your copy online now.