Ferguson will reward Nani with starting place in league opener

SIR Alex Ferguson has promised Community Shield match-winner Nani he will start Manchester United's opening Premier League game at West Brom next Sunday.

The Portugal winger scored twice at Wembley as United charged back from two goals down at half-time to record a memorable 3-2 win over Manchester City. Nani's first levelled the game, the product of a brilliant piece of close passing that also involved Wayne Rooney and Tom Cleverley. Then he kept his nerve in stoppage time to capitalise on Vincent Kompany's mistake and round Joe Hart before tapping into an empty net.

It was a much better experience than the one he endured at Wembley just over ten weeks ago, when he was left out of United's starting line-up by Ferguson and then gifted Barcelona their killer third goal in the Champions League final. And the 24-year-old's reward will come at the Hawthorns where he will be a central figure as United begin the defence of their title. "Nani had a fantastic season last year," said Ferguson. "He contributed 18 assists and scored nine goals. He was unfortunate that Antonio Valencia came in at a time when we needed a bit of freshness and a boost to the squad.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"But you have seen Nani's form in pre-season and again today. He will start the season."

Nani was just one of United's stand-out performers. Rooney was a figure transformed from 12 months ago, whilst Ashley Young enjoyed a memorable debut and Cleverley provided the attacking thrust Ferguson was hoping for when he was introduced, along with Phil Jones and Jonny Evans, at half-time.

"We toyed with the idea of starting Cleverley," revealed Ferguson. "I thought Michael Carrick's experience would be better suited to the game but we were always going to bring Cleverley on. I didn't know exactly where I could have played him but at 2-0 down, I knew Cleverley could get forward from midfield. We needed that type of player." The result leaves Ferguson in optimistic mood ahead of the opening weekend, although the United manager is refusing to take anything for granted. "I trust them and have confidence in the ability of the players but you can never be confident in the Premier League," he said. "It is such a difficult league. Six teams could be challenging for the title."

Meanwhile, Rooney took to Twitter after the game to declare United had delivered a "footballing lesson". He wrote: "Have to say. I think today was a footballing lesson. Great win for the champions."

Since Roberto Mancini arrived at City, derby matches have tended to be close. Yet, while this one was won in stoppage time, United were clearly the better side and the Blues were hugely fortunate to be in front at the break. Joleon Lescott and Edin Dzeko took advantage of errors from David de Gea on his first appearance to establish a hold on the game City did not have in terms of the actual play. However, much to Mancini's chagrin, the Blues were unable to consolidate their position as Chris Smalling began the fightback which Nani finished."I don't think it has given United a mental edge but it will be important for us to know why we lost this game," he said. "A top team doesn't always play well, but when we score two goals and go 2-0 up, we need to have a strong mentality. If we play another strong squad like United, or against someone like Real Madrid in the Champions League, we need to continue to play football. We need to stay high up the pitch, not go too deep like we did in the second half."

Meanwhile, Mancini, who expects skipper Carlos Tevez to be back training at Carrington tomorrow, believes big-money arrival Sergio Aguero needs to improve his fitness before he can be considered for first-team action after spending the entire game on the bench.

"Aguero is not ready to play," said Mancini.