Exclusive: Sir Alex Ferguson was like a father; he built champions, states Luis Nani
The former Manchester United star revealed some of his memories during his time with the Premier League giants.
A little more than a decade ago, Manchester United were in seventh heaven during the Sir Alex Ferguson-era. The Red Devils were simply unstoppable and not just in the Premier League but also in Europe. Those were the times when fans and neutrals alike were glued to their seats just to watch the phenomena such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and others set the pitch on fire. One such name that would often be on the lips of fans was that of Luis Nani.
Young, but matured, Nani developed his own set of fans at Old Trafford with his outrageous skills on the ball, swift feet and superb vision. Following the footsteps of Ronaldo from Sporting Lisbon to United, Nani arrived at Manchester in 2007 with huge expectations. For some, it was a huge step up. But it was a move coming for the youngster from long before during his time back in his hometown in Portugal.
“It’s a time when you are very young, have no pressure but a lot of dreams and desires,” recalled Nani as he spoke his heart out in a recent interaction with Khel Now. He was merely six years old when began learning the ropes under his brother. Within no time, he found a breakthrough and had stints with a couple of local clubs including Real Massama.
“At 16, I moved to Sporting. Yes, that was a big step and I had the opportunity to improve my physicality and overall conditions. I really learned how to play soccer, with good players and compete against good teams,” he added.
A move to Sporting – one of the more reputed outfits in the country, has turned out as a stepping stone to success for many world class footballers. “At Sporting, you can always see some talents who can become fantastic footballers. Sometimes, the problem is with the personality of the kids. In one year, you see something and then the next year you don’t see what you are supposed to. It’s the management you have to do with the kids at certain times,” he explained.
“In the club, you see there is so much talent to explore and give opportunities to. And at this moment, the club is ready to do that.”
Luis Nani himself too, took the opportunity and underwent huge transformation as a player. Within a couple of years, he found his feet in the Portuguese Primeira Liga and subsequently made his UEFA Champions League debut. The progress shown by the teenager had naturally turned the attention of scouts and managers across Europe.
It was then that the golden opportunity to move to Premier League heavy-weights Manchester United came his way. Of course, Sir Alex Ferguson played a huge role in signing the young sensation. “He was like a father to us,” quoted Nani referring to the legendary manager. “I learned how to become a much better person, a player and a champion. Because he built champions.”
Not to forget, Nani also received support from his compatriot Ronaldo as he settled into life in the metropolitan city. “When I came to Manchester, my only option was going to a hotel as I had no place to live. Then, Cristiano offered me to stay at his house as he was staying alone and could use some company. So, Anderson and I moved into his place for a month.”
“We had a wonderful time together,” recalled Nani as he illustrated some fun memories of his early days there. So naturally, when Ronaldo decided to move to Real Madrid only months later, it came rather as a big surprise for not just fans but his fellow teammates as well. “He was one of the best footballers in the world at that time and everyone wanted to play with him. But it was a choice that he made. But good this is that I kept playing with him in the national team so that was great too,” he added.
Now, one would say, it was after Ronaldo’s departure that the Premier League got a real taste of Luis Nani – particularly, the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. Nine goals and 14 assists in the former season followed by another eight goals and 10 assists in the latter, the winger instilled life into Manchester United’s attack after they lost a big gem in Ronaldo.
“Those were fantastic seasons as I assumed more responsibility. I showed the club and the team that they could trust in my qualities. I had the opportunity to score some great goals and drive the fans crazy!”
All the talk about the 2010-11 season and one cannot just forget ‘that’ moment of brilliance produced by Rooney in the Manchester Derby. A 2-1 victory over their city rivals was highlighted by that overhead kick from the Englishman. It was also one of the best performances by Nani who had opened the scoring for the Red Devils and subsequently creating another for Wazza.
Speaking after what was the 10th anniversary of one of the greatest ever goals scored in the Premier League era, Nani described his reaction after Rooney’s moment of magic. “You never expect someone to score a goal like that in such a big game. At that moment, nobody knew how to react. My first reaction was that I ran towards him and grabbed him. That was a moment to never forget.
“Rooney was a great player, one of the best in the world in his position,” Nani continued as he heaped praise on his former teammate who recently called time on his playing career only to be appointed as the manager of Derby County.
“As a coach, he is still very young. But he has the base as a soccer player. I’m sure with time he will produce his qualities on the field as a coach.”
Sometime later, it was Ferguson who announced his retirement. Truly the end of an era for the club and their faithful. Nani expressed how it was a sad moment for the team but eventually had to accept the fact. Moreover, he also opined on current manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his work with the Red Devils so far. Despite some rough patches, the team is on good momentum at present according to him.
“They are not so far; at this moment they are doing great. They need a bit more consistency in games. They’ve got to know each other well and have improved their game. The results have been amazing, but they need to be consistent and try to win every single game. Now they need to show that they’re a good team and they’re ready to win the title,” averred Nani.
Furthermore, Bruno Fernandes is yet another Portuguese who is creating ripples for United in the Premier League. Having played alongside him during his stint at Sporting, Luis Nani also delivered his verdict on his performances so far. “We spoke about Bruno in the beginning when he just arrived. We should give him some time to adapt to the league. Now he’s been very consistent with his game. It’s something I knew when we were playing for Sporting,” he revealed.
“I told him that it would be a great thing if he moved to England to play for Manchester (United). That there he’ll have the opportunity to shine and win trophies. So, he’s doing well, the team’s doing well. Let’s hope they can win any title this season. But if it’s not this season, I think I’m sure that they’re very close to winning the title.”
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