Benfica transformed me, says Man United's Matic

The Serbian, once accustomed to playing in a more advanced position, won a league title and a domestic cup at Benfica between 2011-2014 and revealed the time he spent in Lisbon had transformed him as a player.

The 29-year old Matic was sold to Benfica by Chelsea in 2011 and was bought back by the West London side three years later.   -  GETTY IMAGES

A three-year spell at Portuguese giant Benfica helped Nemanja Matic develop into the player that he is today, the Manchester United midfielder said ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash with his former club.

The Serbian, once accustomed to playing in a more advanced position, won a league title and a domestic cup at Benfica between 2011-2014 and revealed the time he spent in Lisbon had transformed him as a player.

Read: Manchester United expecting a tough clash against Benfica, says Ashley Young

“When I first came to Benfica, the manager Jorge Jesus told me I would be playing as a defensive midfielder,” Matic, who has impressed since joining United from Chelsea during the close season, told the club's television channel (MUTV) on Tuesday.

“At the beginning, it was strange for me because I didn't know I could play that position but slowly, the manager explained to me how to do it.

“And after a lot of hard work, now, I am at Manchester United so I must have done the job well.”

The 29-year old Matic was sold to Benfica by Chelsea in 2011 and after he was bought back by the West London side three years later, he won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and a League Cup.

After moving to United in July on a three-year contract for a reported fee of 40 million pounds ($53 million), Matic has quickly established himself as the team's midfield anchorman and drawn praise from manager Jose Mourinho, who also coached him at Chelsea.

Read: Mourinho would be hapy with a draw against wounded Benfica

United is second in the Premier League two points behind arch-rival City and has made a good start in Europe's elite club competition, having won its opening two Group A games against CSKA Moscow and Basel.

A win at Benfica would put it on the verge of reaching the knockout stages.

Matic said Benfica, winner of a record 36 Portuguese league titles and successive European Cups in 1961 and 1962, was still very close to his heart.

“It's a special club, a club that I love,” he said.

“At Benfica, I learnt a lot about football and the pressure of playing for a big club, because they are one of the best clubs in Europe.

“I will support them for the rest of my life and they will have a special place in my heart, but in the Champions League I hope we can take points from them.”

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