Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic admits he remains short of 100% fit despite staring in the club's near-perfect start to the season. Jose Mourinho's side have won all-but one of their matches this season in all competitions with the Serbia international key to their impressive start to the campaign.
Matic joined United on 31 July for a reported £40m and though he made his debut in the Uefa Super Cup finale nine days later against Real Madrid, he did so without having played for former club Chelsea during pre-season. The 29-year-old had been forced to train alone until his future was sorted meaning he arrived at Old Trafford well short of match fitness.
But that has not affected Matic's performances with the ex-Benfica man having played every minute of United's Premier League and Champions League campaigns, a nine-game run in which they have prevailed eight times. But Matic admits to have been playing through the pain barriers, an admission which comes while Paul Pogba sits on the sidelines with a long-term hamstring injury.
"I didn't have pre-season," said Matic, who has been selected in the Serbia squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Austria and Georgia, according to Press Association."I trained alone. I can feel it in some parts of the game! My body is not ready yet and I have some difficulty, of course, but I try to hide that and to play simple. I will be better.
"We know what we have to do because we are Manchester United and we are focused just on the next game. Always the next game is the most important, so game by game we have to collect points and next May we will see. It's a long way to go."
Mourinho has been coy over the length of time United will be without Pogba, though the Portuguese coach finally breaking rank last week by describing the injury as "long-term". The France international has been given a new lease of life thanks to Matic's defensive responsibilities but the two-time title winner is confident his new side can cope without their record signing.
"We know that he will be out for some time," he added. "He's very important for us, he's a great player, but I am sure that he will be ready soon. I am sure that he will recover well and he will be ready for this season to help us and to score many goals.
"Everyone knows that Paul is very important for Manchester United, but we also have great players to play instead of him. We showed in the last few games that everyone in Manchester is ready to play and everyone can help us."
News over Matic's physical condition comes as Zlatan Ibrahimovic is warned he should only be reintegrated into the United team once fully fit, despite his rapid recovery from a knee problem. The former Sweden captain has not played since April but having re-signed with the 20-time English champions is preparing to make his return.