Once Nani learned how to work with Alex Ferguson, Manchester United became the best “school” in his life – but crossing the bridge was not easy for the former Portugal star.
Nani’s United career was unusual in that he was regularly compared to compatriot and fellow Sporting CP product Cristiano Ronaldo, which seemed to have influenced fan perceptions of him at the outset.
His first season had some memorable highlights, including long-range goals against Middlesbrough and Tottenham, as well as helping United to a Premier League and Champions League double, scoring in the penalty shootout that won European glory.
Despite his 12 Premier League goals that season, Nani was often chastised for a lack of consistency in his performances – a gifted winger who seemed to frustrate as much as he delighted, with a man-of-the-match performance in a 4-0 FA Cup win over Arsenal in February 2008 demonstrating the devastating potential that was maybe not seen enough.
Some fans may have expected United to cut their losses with Nani after he only played 13 games in his second domestic season, partly due to injuries, but the penny seemed to drop, as he had a hand in 10 goals (six assists and four goals) in 23 appearances the following season, and that proved to be the springboard he needed.
“I think the best moment is all the trophies we won together because I think when you play for a coach like that, the way he managed the team and always continued to win, we are privileged, no?”
Nani’s best individual season came in 2010-11, when he racked up 14 assists and nine goals to secure a place on the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Team of the Year and the Players’ Player of the Season award at Manchester United. For him, what is the key? Finally, we’ve figured out what makes Ferguson tick.
“I think the best moment is all the trophies we earned together,” Nani told Stats Perform News of his tenure with Ferguson.
“I think when you play for a coach like that, the way he handled the team and continued to win, we are privileged, no? But I learned how to work with Alex Ferguson because, at first, I didn’t understand how to work with him because I was too emotional.
My history, you know, you need some life lessons, and I was learning so quickly with the help of all my teammates and coaches, and I was satisfied at the end because they helped me grow so quickly.
With them, I learned how to play the game and how to act in a big club like Man United, which is why I have so many fond memories today.
It was the best school I’ve ever attended because the lessons I learned during my seven years at Man United equipped me with the ability to be who I am today and to understand others.”