Saturday 16 December 2017

Nani on last visit to Celtic Park: Fergie was shouting at me to be stronger; I was subbed at half-time

Ronnie Esplin

Fenerbahce star Nani recalled being hooked at half-time the last time he was at Celtic Park by an irate Sir Alex Ferguson.

The 28-year-old Portugal forward was just over a year into his Manchester United career when the Old Trafford side travelled north in November 2008 for their Champions League group game against the Hoops.

Nani struggled to cope with the physicality of a passionate first half which saw Scott McDonald give the home side the lead and he felt the wrath of the legendary United boss at the break before being replaced by Dimitar Berbatov, with the visitors scoring a late equaliser through Ryan Giggs.

Ahead of the Europa League clash with Celtic on Thursday night, where the Turkish side look to get back on track after losing their Group A opener 3-1 to Norwegian side Molde, the former Sporting Lisbon player remembered Ferguson's frustration.

"I remember when I played my first game here, it was a little bit hard," he said.

"I was too young and the manager was shouting to me every time to be more strong because they were tackling a lot but this is part of the game.

Ryan Giggs scores past Artur Boruc to equalise with Celtic at Celtic Park
Ryan Giggs scores past Artur Boruc to equalise with Celtic at Celtic Park

"I have learned a lot and we have to be strong on the pitch.

"We can expect it to be a little bit of a physical game.

"Some tackles tomorrow is no problem, the most important thing is that no one goes off injured.

"Celtic is a team who likes to attack when they play at home.

"They have a very strong mentality from the first minute to the last minute, like in England, so we have to be prepared to play for 90 minutes plus a few more on the same level.

"It is important to start winning in this competition. We had a bad result in the last game but we have to focus on the next task and try to win the game."

Fenerbahce's Portuguese coach Vitor Pereira talked around reported friction between him and another of his summer signings, Robin van Persie, who has started as substitute this season too often for his liking.

The Dutchman came off the bench to score in the Turkish side's last two matches, a 2-1 home win over Bursaspor and a 3-2 away defeat by Besiktas.

Speaking through an interpreter, Pereira said: "Nani is here with me and there are another 18 players who came to Scotland.

"In total I have 25 players and football is a team game and we play as a team.

"But many times you need these kinds of tensions to win games. If everything is peaceful and calm all the time, you can't win the games.

"But I understand, people like to sell newspapers and make a noise about it but these kinds of things are small things and we solve it really fast."

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