Nani has offered some insight into the pressures involved in signing for Manchester United, with the Portuguese revealing that he was sure some of the club’s older players didn’t like him during his first few years with the Old Trafford side.
The attacker, who now plies his trade in Major League Soccer with Orlando City, arrived from Sporting in 2007 as a fresh-faced 20-year-old and was tasked with the daunting prospect of lining up alongside club greats such as Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand.
Indeed, the Red Devils’ elder statesmen were hard enough on the then youngster for him to feel he was unwanted, but eventually came to realise that his team-mates were merely pushing him to realise his full potential and instil a winning mentality.
“It was so important for me to have Giggs, Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, because they were there every time, pushing me and saying things to me. I was not understanding what they were doing. I thought they didn’t like me,” Nani said on the UTD Podcast.
“They would just, every time, go mad at me because things didn’t go well but they saw a lot of potential in me in training and were believing a lot in me. After two or three years, I started realising a lot. It’s one thing to listen but you try to do what they say.”
After establishing himself as a United player, Nani felt more at ease in being critical of team-mates in the same way some club greats had been of him – which would sometimes lead to training ground disagreements.
However, the hugely competitive nature of the club also served to help form a strong bond between the players, as Nani revealed the squad would always make the most of celebratory occasions under Sir Alex Ferguson.
“Like I said, we fought, we disagreed on the field but it was the strongest team I’ve been in,” the 33-year-old went on. “We knew the times to play together, to respect each other. When we had to enjoy it together as well.
“We used to do celebrations because we never had a day off, our boss was a very hard person. At Christmas or someone’s birthday, or Manchester United Foundation galas, they were our opportunities to be together, drink a beer and sing.
“I remember a great moment at a Christmas party where I remember Scholes singing, drinking his beer. Then I had to sing as well and improvise something.
“I think sometimes I can rap a little bit and Rio was pushing me a lot to do that. I was doing it in English, so imagine that. My English is horrible! They were laughing a lot, so it was a great moment.”