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Haters SNM

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Suddenly, the man of Manchester United’s moment turns serious. He leans forward and strips the fun from his voice. “I tell you a secret,” he says. “Sometimes the most hard thing is the most easy. Because the goalkeeper never expects. That’s why the big players always score when they do the hardest things.”

It’s how Nani kept this Premier League season alive, carrying the ball so close to Heurelho Gomes last weekend that Tottenham’s keeper had all the angles covered — except the overhead parabola of a preposterous chip. It’s how Nani has navigated his life — taking on the toughest challenge, then making it appear easy.

Long since renamed by an elder sister, a teenage Luis Carlos Almeida da Cunha is organising the street games in the rough “bairros” of Amadora. Small and skinny, his day is ruled by the ball and he wants it to himself. “Every day, every morning, every afternoon I was there,” says Nani, laughing. “I didn’t eat. The most important thing for me was football. When we picked the teams, I put the best players against me, and the weaker players with me so I could play alone. ‘You defend, I attack with the ball’. I didn’t pass the ball to no-one.”

His brother is known as the most talented footballer in the Lisbon satellite town. Five years older, Paulo Roberto takes him to train with his club, Real Massama. “I was 13 or 14. Every time I dribbled past my brother he would kick me, he slapped me because he was embarrassed in front of his friends. And they were the same. ‘You think you are a footballer, the youngest can’t do that’. If I showed skill they’d kick me, all the time. But I never stopped.”

Nani is 16 and training on alternate days with Benfica and Sporting, Lisbon’s grand rivals. Sometimes he walks miles to and from the practices, other days he dodges collectors for want of the train fare.

Neither team are convinced by the little kid from the wrong side of town. When Sporting invite Nani to pre-season training while making clear there will be no contract at the end of it, he almost walks away. “I was angry inside but I didn’t want to be arrogant and say, ‘If I’m not staying why should I bother with a pre-season?’ We played a lot of friendlies and there were many players older than me, but always I was the best. The day the club changed their mind was when we went to a tournament. We were losing 1-0 to Boavista, the coach put me on and with my first opportunity I scored. It went to penalties and he said, ‘Nani, you want to take a penalty?’ I said, ‘Yes, of course’. Mine was the last one, I scored an unbelievable penalty and they start to be crazy with me.”

It is 2005 and the infatuation spreads as Nani is promoted to the first team and continues to swerve and sway round older opponents. He starts the next season being capped by Portugal and ends it signed by Sir Alex Ferguson for £14m. Eleven months later he is taking United’s fifth penalty in a Moscow shootout, knowing failure gives the Champions League to Chelsea. “People forget that one,” he says. “It was a hard penalty because I know if I miss we are dead. The pressure was incredible but the most important thing is inside.”

When United take on Sunderland this afternoon, their supporters will look with greatest expectation to Nani, yet as recently as January his position seemed tenuous. Last season he made just seven League starts and frustrated with his fitfulness. Sensing the player’s dissatisfaction, Barcelona offered to sign him, only to be knocked back by Ferguson.

Linked by friendship, nationality and flair, Nani was tagged as the natural successor to Cristiano Ronaldo, but with his early season hampered by injury the comparison became invidious. In November, some unguarded criticism of Ferguson’s management drifted back from Portugal, leading to predictions of Nani’s demise.

Ferguson, though, was too canny to waste his investment readily. Nani spent time in the reserves and was returned to the first team in a series of January wins culminating in a virtuoso destruction of Arsenal. By March he had agreed an improved four-year contract.

He has become more astute and team-orientated. He makes the simple pass when it is available, moves into more dangerous positions and saves his ability to best opponents one-on-one for the right moment.

“I feel more mature,” says Nani. “I know my football improved and I see myself playing more for the team. This is important because your teammates start to give you the ball more, to give you confidence. They know, ‘We give him the ball, he doesn’t lose it’. Sometimes when you are young they only give it to you up front.

“Now, I feel I can play everywhere. If I’m in the middle, if I’m outside our box, they’ll pass to me and we can make a counterattack because they know I can do something with personality. And when I’m confident I want to be the man, I want to take the responsibility.”

That development has been guided by Patrice Evra, a player Ferguson saw was close to Nani and asked to share his own travails on arriving at United. “Pat has been a big friend for me,” says Nani. “He always spoke about how we have to be patient, and how Manchester work with the players. He tried to show me how he was when he came, that they did the same with him. He said, ‘If you pass through the same as I did you will be in a good position’.”

Another shared belief is that a fourth straight title can be United’s. “I think our opportunity is Sunday,” he says. “If Chelsea lose points we win the League. If not, we win it next season. Every season in Manchester is like this. If we win we will come like we win nothing. We come with the same ambition to win everything.”

When that day arrives there may be more than one United forward celebrating with what the Portuguese evocatively call the “death leap” somersault. “I’ve been teaching Rooney. He did it once last year at the training ground. Unbelievable. First time he tried it, perfect.”

That’s what these happy assassins do. The hardest things, made easy.

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I thought this would be about Shteve McClaren.

"It ish a miracul."

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I thought this would be about Shteve McClaren.

"It ish a miracul."

:lol:

/

The Manc fans need someone to blame...

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Waste of a topic

We all said he would come good but was to inconsistent and could not afford to give him enough game time to improve and that A.Young might be better as he is already used to the PL however his situation changed, he got given more time on the field and impressed and stepped up

Stop clutching

You said Carrick is the most underatted player in the league and that grass is really blue etc

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Always rated Luis Nani

How could he progress at Utd when he did not complete 3 games in a row since his 1st season till Jan 2010..

Needs 2 work on his free kicks thoe

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tbh its most of the man who dont watch football anyway. the guys who watch MOTD or read the match report in the sun

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Nani, Nani, Nani, gets the fanny, him and Anderson.

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How could he progress at Utd when he did not complete 3 games in a row since his 1st season till Jan 2010..

Is this a true stat? If so then snm really.

The same people who were slewing Nani saying we havent got time to develop players are also Darren Fletchers biggest fans. Says it all about the level of cluelessness among some.

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I thought this would be about Shteve McClaren.

"It ish a miracul."

dfgdsgsdgsdgdsgklhgk,

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quite frankly none of the problems he had were due to his technical and playing ability,

it was down to the mental side of the game,

no one doubted his obvious quality, just his work rate application and abilty to do it in this league regularly, been a different player since Jan and has warranted a run in the first team, hope he has a good world cup and pushes onto next season

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