Today is the 24th birthday of Manchester United player, Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha, or as United fans know him – Nani.
Signed from Sporting Lisbon in July 2007, Nani has, without doubt, had an eventful career so far at Manchester United. The clear high point being that he was a part of the team that became English, European and World Champions during 2008. At the same time he has also been known to frustrate our supporters at times, with some of his performances. At the moment though, he is seen as a very important player in our squad and games where he has not been available for selection are seen a disappointment and that we’ll miss him out on the pitch.
From my own personal point of view, the following 3 matches stand out in Nani’s Manchester United career so far:-
1) Manchester United vs Liverpool – 3-0 Home Win, in Premier League, March 2008
For many this was seen as the match where Nani’s career really took off. Victory over our most fierce rivals, particularly at that stage of the season is always seen as being very important and that victory was very memorable indeed. Nani played a key role in victory that day and was on the scoresheet too. This win did our confidence a lot of good for the rest of the season, as we went on in pursuit of the Premier League and Champions league Titles.
2) Manchester United vs Chelsea – Penalty Shoot Out Victory, Champions League Final, Luzhniki Stadium, May 2008.
Nani was United’s 5th Penalty taker in this shoot out and the pressure was on him to score. Following Ronaldo’s penalty shoot-out miss, if Nani didn’t score, Chelsea would be crowned Champions of Europe. I remember that we were in the Stadium at the time thinking how much pressure he was under, in his 1st season at the club. The pressure clearly didn’t effect Nani, as he fired home his penalty into the back of the net. Next up was Chelsea’s 5th penalty taker – John Terry! Without Nani’s penalty success, the scene would not have been set for John Terry’s infamous penalty miss. Huge credit is due to Nani for what he did that night and he rightly deserved his Champions League winners Medal. What a way to end his 1st season at Manchester United.
3) Arsenal vs Manchester United – 3-1 Away Win, in Premier League 2010.
For me, this was one of Nani’s best performances in a United shirt and marked a great turnaround in his United career. In November 2009, he publicly criticised Sir Alex Ferguson and it seemed like he would be leaving United either at the end of the season or in the January transfer window. However, Nani and Sir Alex appeared to resolve their differences and Nani was given more chances in the 1st team again. His performances in January were much improved, especially during the last week of that month where we beat Man City at home in the League Cup Semi-Final 2nd Leg and the Arsenal away match. I remember the great reception we gave Nani at the Emirates Stadium too. In particular, one time when he came over to take a corner in front of us, in the away section, we gave him a big cheer and lots of applause. Nani clearly noticed this really well and applauded us back too. Soon after this, Nani was rewarded with a new contract at United – which seemed so unlikely only a few months earlier.
Hopefully there will be many more matches, like these, which will stand out with Nani during the rest of his career with Manchester United.