Luis Nani was a simply sensational player at Manchester United, and made the number 17 shirt his own, even if fans were split in opinions over the Portuguese star.
When the winger signed from Sporting Lisbon in 2007 (12 years ago!!) not many had heard of him, but comparisons back in Portugal were linking to a winger already in Manchester, Cristiano Ronaldo, which instantly made fans excited.
He had a taste of success in his very first outing with the Red Devils, a Community Shield victory over Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, and he would win plenty more trophies at United, including the Champions League.
Over the years he had ups and downs at the club, wowing the fans with 40 yard spectacular goals and a countless number of audacious skills.
Let’s look back at just some of his highlights!
First Premier League Goal vs Spurs
I remember I was away for this game and was watching with my dad in Greece, and I vividly remember Nani scoring this simply sensational strike to announce himself as a Manchester United player at Old Trafford.
The young Portuguese star took the ball off the toes of Paul Scholes, with that on its on being a sign of confidence so early in his United career. He turned with two touches and unleashed a rocket into the top corner.
It was a brilliant way to start is United career.
That Penalty in Moscow
What a night that was for our club. As it went to penalties just how nervous were, we, the fans, who could do nothing about the outcome.
Now think how nervous you would be to have all of those fans’ hearts in your hands, or should we say right foot, and if you miss United don’t win the Champions League and you will have all the Chelsea players and officials running past you celebrating.
Now imagine only being 21 and seeing your idol, Ronaldo, missing his penalty.
Nani tucked his penalty away showing he has, as Troy Deeney says, massive ‘cojones’.
We won the shoot-out that night and Nani was a Champions League winner at just 21 years old, all because he scored when he quite simply had to.
Community Shield Brace vs City
Two-nil down and seemingly out in the Community Shield.
Tom Cleverley comes on at half time and changes the game, as Chris Smalling gets one back and our fans started to believe.
Nani scored his first, and my personal favourite of that specific match, after exquisite interplay with Wayne Rooney and Cleverly, with the Portuguese finishing the move that he started with a delightful chip over Joe Hart.
In the dying moments Nani scored what many of you said was your favourite Nani moment. Nipping in and stealing the ball off Vincent Kompany, Nani raced clean through and had the cheek to sit Hart down before tapping into the open goal to win us the Community Shield.
Freak goal against Spurs
Again, this is one which I remember well, as I was there.
Nani seemingly handled, well he did handle the ball when appealing for a penalty, with Heurelho Gomes thinking Mark Clattenburg had given a free kick.
He places the ball down ready to kick it, but Scholes orders Nani to kick it into the empty net, and that he does, worming away, insisting on doing his spectacular acrobatic celebration.
Admittedly, many of the fans around me were on their way back down after jumping up to appeal for a penalty, so missed what happened next, but I remember this freakish goal vividly.
After Rio Ferdinand had a conversation with Clattenburg and his linesmen, the goal was given, Harry Redknapp was fuming and the rest of Old Trafford was in hysterics, all down to Nani.
That Red Card That Wasn’t
I think all Manchester United fans are still fuming about this to this day, nearly 10 years on.
It was the 56th minute, United 1-0 up on the night and 2-1 on aggregate against Mourinho’s Real Madrid, and Nani tries to take down a high ball, unaware that Alvaro Arbeloa was also going for the ball, and catching the defender.
Nani stays down, and nobody thought what would happen next would happen.
Cuneyt Cakir pulled out the red card. What?! Arguably the worst decision that we have ever seen and definitely the angriest I have ever been during a United match.
The tie turned on that decision as Luka Modric and Ronaldo scored for Madrid to send United out of the Champions League.
What makes it worse in hindsight is that was Sir Alex Ferguson’s last experience of the Champions League.
Cuneyt Cakir, for me, will always be known as ‘Nani ref’, and even to this day he is still officiating the biggest games in Europe.
Nani vs Arsenal
For many, Nani’s performances against Arsenal stand out.
Be that the amazing individual goal he scored, beating three men before chipping over Almunia into the top corner, via a touch from the keeper, or his chip in the 8-2 win at Old Trafford, he often made Arsenal look like Banter FC, before it was a fact.
However, for many his knee, head, head, head, knee, knee, foot juggling routine whilst United were 4-0 up against the London club was the cherry on the top, and I have to say it was very, very funny to watch.
William Gallas, the man marking Nani in that moment, wasn’t best pleased, but Old Trafford absolutely loved it.
Nani was toying with Arsenal and boy did we enjoy it!
So many more moments could have been highlighted, with his goal against Liverpool being extra special for obvious reasons, and many of you mentioned his performances against Middlesbrough.
Nani came under, in my opinion, plenty of unwarranted critiques. He was a simply ridiculous player for Manchester United, and might be one to come under ‘you don’t know what you have till it has gone’ category.
It was great to see him win the Euros with Portugal whilst captaining the side for much of the final, where he added another trophy to what has been a marvellous career for one of the most underrated talents to ever play in the Premier League.