Chatterbox Nani looking to silence noisy neighbours
Published 20/10/2011 | 05:00
Nani is becoming the self-appointed communicator in the Manchester United dressing-room, matched perhaps only by Chris Smalling for his willingness to linger in far-flung corners of European football and talk.
But loquaciousness is one thing, candour something else and the look of surprise in his eyes when it is suggested that Manchester City's FA Cup semi-final over Manchester United must be a form of hurt which needs avenging on Sunday is not entirely convincing.
"No..." he says, the wide eyes providing good effect. "All the players have forgotten this now, especially as we beat City in the Community Shield (3-2) at Wembley at the start of the season. It's important that we remember that, rather than the semi-final or any other games we lose."
The Cup defeat did matter, though. It was only City's second win over United in the Abu Dhabi era -- the first was a first-leg Carling Cup tie which was cancelled out in the second game -- and one which punctured the aura of Red invincibility around Manchester.
That's the city where, as the late music mogul Tony Wilson once said, the population "do things differently -- but who find it difficult sometimes to share the same oxygen".
Nani did not challenge the idea that there was more motivation than ever now that City have replaced United at the top and will open a five-point lead if they win.
"They are doing fantastic and of course it will be more difficult than other games," he said. "The preparation is always different for derby games. Every year the games against City seem to get more important. We usually play well against them."
City have not won at Old Trafford since Sven Goran Eriksson managed them into the game which marked 50 years since the Munich disaster.
"To be fair we were lucky in the home game that year (which City won 1-0)," Eriksson reflected. "Yes, we were lucky to win that. But I don't think we were lucky away -- we deserved to win that."
A 21-year-old Nani flickered sporadically on that emotive day; that he should command a starting place again, nearly four years on, attests to his powers of perseverance.
It is a more subdued Antonio Valencia who has been left in the shade by Nani's sparkling form this season.
After another influential second-half performance in Bucharest, Nani seemed to feel it necessary to send a message with his repeated insistence that he was a man for the big fixtures.
"I feel comfortable in these sort of games. I like the pressure these games bring," he said. "I have been waiting for these big games because I believe I have the quality and mentality to play in them."
"We should be confident every time we play at home. Even when we play away."
A delivery from the self-styled team spokesman that even his manager would be pleased to call his own. (© Independent News Service)