Portuguese star has revealed why he knew Manchester United were always the team for him.
The Orlando City winger, had a pool of clubs to choose from when he left Sporting Lisbon in 2007.
However, he had always felt an unexplained connection with the Reds, as he revealed during an in-depth chat for UTD Podcast, which will be released in full on Monday evening.
The Portuguese winger visited Old Trafford as a youngster and then had more feelings he would play for us when watching the 1998/99 side clinch the Treble on television with a friend.
“I went into Manchester a couple of years before, three or four years before, when I was 17 years old,” he revealed. “We went to England for a pre-season, I don’t remember where, but we were training and the coach, one day, said: ‘Guys, we’re preparing for a tour at Old Trafford.’
“Wow, wow, Old Trafford! Wow! The day we went there, we were inside the Museum and there was a challenge game to see who had the hardest shot. It would give the numbers and I was there, kicking every time, I can tell you, one of the hardest shots. My very hardest shot.
“Okay, on to the dressing room and it was a special moment as it was where the players sit and change for a game. I was very excited. Giggs, Cristiano, Beckham have been here and I went there inside. I remember I was sitting and the guy giving the tour said to us, ‘Cristiano sits here, Giggs sits there’. Oh, they sit here! Oh my goodness!
“Unbelievable. One day, I will sit here and I will be here. It’s funny, after probably five years, I was there and it was amazing. My team-mates were the ones who remembered that, not me. When I arrived there, after a couple of weeks or months, some of my friends were coming and said, ‘You said you wanted to be there. Do you remember, when we were going there and what we were talking about?’ I couldn’t remember but it but they remembered it. For me, it was amazing. Incredible.”
Nani also recalls watching the closing stages of the dramatic 1999 Champions League final with a pal, and knowing United were his team.
“The game when Manchester United won 2-1 against Bayern Munich, in the final, I remember I had a situation with another friend,” he said. “I think he lives in England now. The game was on and we ran to one café to get to watch the last minutes. I remember I said to him, ‘That’s my team. I will be in that team. That’s my team’. I remember that and, sometimes, things come out of my mouth and I don’t have an idea what I’m saying.
“Probably saying it, you just feel it. Come on, you’ve got to have a reason but there are so many things that happened in the past that now make sense.”
When Sir Alex Ferguson came calling in 2007, he knew it was the right move for him.
“At that time, I was lucky because I was working with the strongest agents in the world and then we had a connection with a lot of important persons,” he explained. “People who were important in Manchester because, at that time, Ronaldo was playing there and had a similar story, you know, playing for Sporting and then Ferguson went to bring him to United. Carlos Queiroz was there as well, he’s Portuguese, so it can help a little bit and I was very excited.
“My agent asked me as there were so many teams to choose from – Chelsea, Arsenal, teams in Italy like Juventus and Inter [Milan]. Bayern [Munich] and [Real] Madrid – I don’t know if they were true but it was in the news. I chose Manchester because of the reasons they gave me at that time and everything [about how] the past was involved with me. It gave me the reasons to go there, all my story and beyond that, told me to go to Manchester. It was a club where I have a story in the past before I moved to Manchester, when I was a kid, so it was good.”
When it came to leaving Old Trafford, it was always going to be a wrench after his great affiliation with the Reds. After a loan move to former club Sporting Lisbon, he joined Valencia on a permanent basis in 2016.
“I’ll tell you the truth,” he stressed. “It will never be the same after leaving Manchester United to play for another club. It’s not the same. As a club, as a structure, the quality, everyone knows that. I’m not offending anybody. Everyone knows that.
“That’s why Man United is Man United, all over the world. It was great to come back to Sporting because I came back home, close to my family and my friends. It was good to breathe a little bit, to recover and get some energy back and motivation, to find a new challenge. To tell the truth, it was a great season for Sporting for me that year. I played very well and, in the Champions League, I scored a couple of goals. I enjoyed the football a lot in that time.”