Nani shines in first match post ManU move

He's Portuguese, plays for Manchester United and scores dramatic goals. His name isn't Cristiano Ronaldo.

updated: June 05, 2007 18:25 IST
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He's Portuguese, plays for Manchester United and scores dramatic goals. His name isn't Cristiano Ronaldo.

Standing in for the suspended Ronaldo, 20-year-old Nani celebrated his 17.3-million pound midweek transfer from Sporting to the English league champs with a goal in Portugal's 2-1 victory over Belgium on Saturday that kept the Iberians in contention for the European Championship finals.

Nani's performance was rough at times _ not unlike those of Ronaldo before his tenure at Old Trafford. But it was flavored with enough feints and swerves and bursts of speed to gladden the hearts of the Manchester United faithful.

Manager Alex Ferguson's biggest problem may be where to play him, given the effectiveness of the Ronaldo-Ryan Giggs partnership on the United flanks this season.

Perhaps significantly, hours before Nani's dazzling display in only his sixth full international, Giggs was playing his last match in a Welsh shirt.

At 33, Giggs hopes leaving Wales will prolong his career at United, but is likely to face competition from the young man from Lisbon.

Nani's goal was a treat. Drifting in from the far left into the penalty area, he suddenly surged ahead, faking twice to elude defenders before firing a low right-foot shot that went in off the keeper and the post.

Portugal's fans, who outshouted the home supporters, erupted.

Nani may be on course to earn 26,000 pound a week at Old Trafford, but his origins are humble.

Born in the Cape Verde islands off Africa a decade after the mid-Atlantic nation gained its independence from Portugal, Nani grew up on the streets of Lisbon's immigrant neighborhoods among eight siblings in a family abandoned by his father.

He was spotted by Sporting and joined the Lisbon Lion's famed youth academy at the age of 16. Soon he was drawing comparisons with Ronaldo, who had just left for United.

Although he may have developed some of Ronaldo's skills on the pitch, he seemed shy and retiring compared to his new teammate off the field.

"I'm very proud to be going to such a great club, but now I really have to work," he said. "I'm just prepared to be Nani, and show them how I can play football."