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It doesn't get any bigger than this: Matic

By Damien Spellman

Nemanja Matic will head into the "most important" game in Serbia's history dreaming of World Cup qualification and the Premier League title.

The 29-year-old has enjoyed an impressive start to life at Old Trafford after Jose Mourinho paid £40million to lure him north from Chelsea.

However, while helping to restore United to the pinnacle of the English game is a major focus, edging Serbia closer to next summer's World Cup finals in Russia will be his overriding concern when he runs out to face the Republic of Ireland in a Group D showdown tonight.

Matic said: "It is the most important game for us in this qualification and maybe in our football history in Serbia.

"Of course before when it was Yugoslavia, there were many big games played.

"But when Serbia started to play separately, I think this game is one of the most important games because if we win, we know we are very close to a World Cup."

Matic's move from Chelsea may have raised eyebrows, but the man himself was giving little away about the circumstances which saw him swap London for the red half of Manchester, and was equally coy about suggestions he could be the signing of the summer.

He said: "We will see. It is too early to say that because we have just played three games."

Asked if qualifying for the World Cup and winning the Premier League would represent a dream season, he added: "It is a dream for me to play at the World Cup with Serbia.

"If that happens, I will be very happy."

Matic's style of play has inevitably led to comparisons with Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane, and the Serbian enforcer admits he admired his United predecessor as a youngster.

He said: "When I started following football, he was one of the best midfielders in the Premier League, if not the best."

If Matic's quality will be key to Serbia's hopes in Dublin, so too could the potency of striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, who has struggled to make his mark at Newcastle.

Boss Slavoljub Muslin said: "Maybe the system of play we have, with three attackers, suits him better. With our team, he is the first centre-forward and perhaps he feels more comfortable.

"Perhaps the coach in Newcastle doesn't have as much confidence in him as I do."

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