Matic, signed from Premier League champions Chelsea for just under £40m in the summer, has been one of the most influential players in Man United’s seasons. Coping with long-term injuries to Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini may have proved impossible without Matic in central midfield.
But he had to be subbed off on Tuesday night with a muscle injury, Mourinho revealed. United were 3-0 up at the time after a stunning pair of strikes from Ashley Young and a cool finish from Anthony Martial in the first half.
Jesse Lingard produced an astonishingly good solo goal to seal the win for United, but only after Watford had scored twice in quick succession and looked like they were going to score a third, equalising goal.
“We lost stability when Nemanja Matic had to come out but the important thing is the three points,” Mourinho said.
“I saw happiness from the team and played with a free mind. For Matic to tell me he wants to be replaced, he does not do that if it is nothing important. It is muscular.”
Any kind of muscular injury is a deep worry for United and Matic. The 29-year-old didn’t look in serious pain when he came off, walking off the pitch and casually settling down on the substitutes bench. But that doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to be fit for the two vital clashes coming up in the next fortnight.
United travel to Arsenal on Saturday evening and host Manchester City eight days later. They’ll need Matic.