Nani's top team-mates XI
It was good to catch up with our former Portuguese winger Nani on this week’s episode of UTD Podcast.
In case you haven’t listened to the show yet, the 33-year-old reminisced about some of the best moments of his eight-year spell at Old Trafford, which took in a Champions League win, as well as four Premier League titles.
The trip down memory lane got us wondering what an XI composed of the players Nani most often shared a dressing room with would look like.
Allowing for some flexibility based on positions and formations, here’s what our research threw up - what a side this would be!
Edwin van der Sar (112 games with Nani)
Perhaps Nani’s greatest moment in a red shirt came in the rain of Moscow in 2008, when he struck home the fourth successful penalty in our 6-5 shootout win over Chelsea in the Champions League final. The man who made the decisive save in that nerve-shredding contest, Edwin van der Sar, features in goal in our XI, having played 17 more games with Nani than current Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
Highlights: 2008 Champions League finalVideo
John O’Shea (83), Rio Ferdinand (141), Nemanja Vidic (139), Patrice Evra (185)
Our defence is heavily based around the 2008 contingent, with Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra all playing the full 120 minutes at the Luzhniki Stadium 12 years ago. That trio all featured alongside the Portuguese on more than 100 occasions, with Evra being Nani’s most common team-mate of all – often lining up behind the tricky winger on the left-hand side. Fittingly, Nani describes Patrice Evra as being ‘like a brother’ in the podcast:
“He was one of the best friends I had in Manchester because, every time when I needed it, he was there to give me some advice and would come down and think what I have to do to be positive. He was like a brother. It was good.”
Right-back was a more difficult position to fill, but John O’Shea edges out Antonio Valencia by just one appearance – although we had a slightly better points-per-game ratio when the Ecuadorian lined up in the same XI as Nani (2.22 compared to O’Shea and Nani’s 2.17).
Michael Carrick (161), Joao Moutinho (148), Ryan Giggs (119)
Two more United stalwarts in Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs line up in midfield. Both were, of course, already at the club when Nani signed from Sporting Lisbon in 2007. Carrick would go on to spend a further three years at Old Trafford after the Portuguese’s departure in 2015, when Giggs was sitting in the dugout as Louis van Gaal’s assistant. The only non-United man to make it into our starting line-up is Joao Moutinho.
Currently impressing at Wolves, the 33-year-old was an established star at Sporting when Nani made his debut in 2005, with the midfielder having started the UEFA Cup final defeat to CSKA Moscow earlier that year. Moutinho left Sporting three years after Nani, in 2010, and played for Porto and Monaco before coming to England but has also, of course, shared the pitch with our former winger at international level for Portugal, including in the European Championship-winning side of 2016.
Cristiano Ronaldo (129), Dimitar Berbatov (91), Wayne Rooney (155)
Unsurprisingly, Nani’s ex-housemate and former Red Cristiano Ronaldo makes it into an impressive triumvirate, which also features Wayne Rooney – who Nani combined with to great effect in the 2009/10 and 2010/11 seasons – and former Premier League Golden Boot-winner Dimitar Berbatov. It is Ronaldo who Nani is perhaps best associated with though – he even took the captain’s armband from the five-time Ballon d'Or winner during the Euro 2016 final, when Cristiano was forced off early through injury in Portugal’s 1-0 win over hosts France.
“[Cristiano and Anderson] were [my] best friends,” Nani told us.
“We used to stay at the end of the training sessions and stay there [and] do something – a competition, either the crossbar or penalties. They were my team-mates. Everyone has best friends, or feels more comfortable with someone, probably because we speak the same language.”
NANI’S FULL XI:
Van der Sar; O’Shea, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Carrick, Moutinho, Giggs; Ronaldo, Berbatov, Rooney.
Nani: Why living with Ronaldo was competitive!Video
ON THE BENCH
As previously mentioned, Portugal’s number one and former Sporting keeper Patricio is our back-up between the sticks, while another experienced compatriot of Nani’s, Bruno Alves, also makes it on to the bench, with 108 combined appearances. Jonny Evans (103), Darren Fletcher (107), Paul Scholes (105) and Javier Hernandez (80) all lifted Premier League titles with our former winger, while we couldn’t not include Anderson (95), could we?
Stats courtesy of www.transfermarkt.com.
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