UTD Podcast: Inside the Nani enigma


At his best – roughly for 16 months from January 2010 to the end of the following season – our then no.17 would often provide moments of something close to genius. Two-footed, poised, with an almost embarrassing ability to confuse and taunt opponents, top-form Nani could pose a danger to any opponent in the world.

In full flight, he was a glorious sight. Always graceful, whether moving quickly or in a more controlled fashion, on certain days it seemed nothing could prevent his abundant box of tricks from scattering magic and panic all over the gaff.

But, strangely, that year-and-a-half seemed to come from nowhere. Like Nani himself had done in the summer of 2007. And his golden spell disappeared again almost as quickly as it had arrived.

For me, Nani’s first goal summed up his entire period in M16. In a game against Tottenham that was locked at 0-0, with nothing happening, he simply blasted one in from 30 yards midway into the second half to earn the three points. Unpredictable, brilliant, but as changeable as the Manchester weather.

Then he unfurled his trademark somersaulting celebration. That fixed him in fans’ minds for a time, no doubt. He became thought of as a trickster, an exhibitionist as much as a footballer.

United had been linked with the Brazilian Kerlon – famous for his seal-style dribble – the year before Nani’s arrival, and some fans seemed to think of the Portuguese along the same lines. A nu-footballer that was bursting with technical dexterity but probably not your first choice for the proverbial ‘wet Tuesday night in Stoke’.


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