Sporting Kansas City crushed Minnesota United 4-0 in MLS to go top of the Western Conference standings, while Real Salt Lake prevailed in a seven-goal shoot-out.

Johnny Russell scored a goal and assisted two others as Sporting KC routed Minnesota at Children's Mercy Park on Wednesday.

Russell converted a penalty as part of a three-goal first half, with Khiry Shelton and Daniel Salloi also on target against the visitors.

Cameron Duke added a fourth goal seven minutes into the second half as Sporting KC found the back of the net in their 28th consecutive regular-season home game dating back to August 2019 – the longest active streak in MLS.

Sporting KC are a point clear in the west, though second-placed Seattle Sounders have played two games less, while Minnesota are two points outside the play-off positions.

San Jose Earthquakes star Javier Lopez scored a hat-trick, but Real Salt Lake still prevailed 4-3 in a wild clash.

Lopez opened the scoring in the 26th minute and completed his treble in the second half, however, RSL emerged victorious thanks to Rubio Rubin's brace.

The result snapped a five-match away losing streak for RSL, who ended San Jose's run of three consecutive wins over their rivals in MLS – a run that had equalled the longest streak by either team in history.

Elsewhere, former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez salvaged a 1-1 draw for LA Galaxy against Houston Dynamo.

Another ex-United star, Nani, was sent off in the first half as Orlando City were beaten 4-2 by Montreal, Ola Kamara's opening-half hat-trick lifted DC United past Chicago Fire 3-0, Atlanta United were 4-0 winners against FC Cincinnati courtesy of a Josef Martinez double, Los Angeles FC edged Austin 2-1 and 10-man Portland Timbers drew 2-2 with Colorado Rapids.

Junior Urso scored a late winner after Orlando City had blown a two-goal lead to claim second spot in the Eastern Conference with a 3-2 triumph over Columbus Crew.

Former Manchester United winger Nani had set up Daryl Dike for a 26th-minute opener with a tackle-cum-pass before Silvester van der Water doubled Orlando's lead three minutes later with a cross which eluded everyone.

But the visitors rallied after the break with a double strike inside three minutes, firstly with Antonio Carlos' 52nd-minute own goal.

Minutes later Lucas Zelarayan picked out Derrick Etienne Jr who cushioned a pass into the box for Miguel Berry to equalize.

Orlando grabbed all three points with Dike laying back a pass for Junior Urso to lash home a 69th-minute winner from the edge of the box.

The result moves Orlando above Nashville into second spot in the east with 38 points from 22 games, having gone six games unbeaten in the MLS.

Inter Miami continued their excellent recent form after Brek Shea's 90th-minute winner earned them a 1-0 victory away to Cincinnati.

The result extends Phil Neville's side's unbeaten run to four games and means they have lost only once in their past nine, climbing up to 10th spot in the east.

Dominique Badji also netted a late winner, scoring in the 89th minute to lift the Colorado Rapids into second in the west with a 1-0 victory at San Jose Earthquakes.

Real Salt Lake came from a goal down early to win 3-2 over Dallas, while Vancouver Whitecaps scored twice in the final 20 minutes to beat struggling Austin 2-1.

Former Manchester United winger Nani scored his ninth goal of the MLS season as Orlando City missed the chance to close the gap at the top after a 1-1 draw at Cincinnati on Saturday.

Cincinnati, who were winless in their past seven games coming in, opened the scoring in the 42nd minute from Brazilian attacker Brenner.

Nani levelled moments after being brought into the game as a 55th-minute substitute, driving forward and firing in a low left-foot pinpoint shot.

The result means back-to-back draws for Orlando who are second in the Eastern Conference, seven points behind leaders New England.

Third-placed New York City blew an early two-goal lead to draw 2-2 away to Toronto.

Santiago Rodriguez and Ismael Tajouri had put City up 2-0 inside 21 minutes but Toronto netted twice after the break.

Richie Laryea pulled one back in the 49th minute before reigning MVP Alejandro Pozuela equalised in the 55th minute with a tap in.

Portland Timbers beat Real Salt Lake 3-2 in a see-sawing contest with Felipe Mora netting the eventual winner.

Columbus Crew suffered their third straight defeat as Ezequiel Barco netted a double for Atlanta City in a 3-2 win.

Dallas continued their good run of recent form, claiming their third win in four games, with a 2-0 triumph over Austin.

Minnesota United won 2-0 over Houston Dynamo, while Colorado Rapids drew 0-0 with Western Conference leaders Sporting KC.

Former Manchester United winger Nani scored a last-gasp winner to lift Orlando City past Atlanta United 3-2 in the MLS on Friday.

The Portuguese got on the end of Dutchman Silvester van der Water's 87th-minute cross for the winner which keeps Orlando in touch with Eastern Conference leaders New England.

Atlanta had taken a first-minute lead from Josef Martinez's perfectly placed long-range effort, but Kyle Smith equalised on the stroke of half-time from Nani's corner.

Marcelino Moreno restored United's lead in the 66th minute with a stunning curling strike from outside of the box.

Orlando put together a fine team goal to square the game up in the 79th minute as van der Water headed in Benji Michel's pass.

The Dutch substitute would then provide the pass for Nani's decisive goal, which was his seventh strike of the season.

New York City stayed close behind Orlando in the Eastern Conference with their third consecutive win, a 4-1 victory over Columbus Crew.

City piled on the style, racing to a 2-0 half-time lead after strikes from Valentin Castellanos's early header and Thiago's chip.

Keaton Parks added a third with a deft 51st-minute touch, meaning it was the first time all season Columbus had conceded three goals in a game.

Santiago Rodriguez bundled in from close-range albeit requiring a VAR review, before Pedro Santos' consolation penalty.

LA Galaxy, without Javier Hernandez, cruised past Portland Timbers 4-1 to solidify their grip on third in the west.

Malagasy midfielder Rayan Raveloson pulled off a spectacular overheard volley to open the scoring.

Nani came up with a crucial assist as Orlando City leapfrogged Philadelphia Union into second spot in the Eastern Conference with a 2-1 win in MLS on Thursday.

Orlando had taken the lead in the 10th minute from Benji Michel's cool finish and Andrea Perea doubled their advantage in the 58th minute when he met ex-Manchester United winger Nani's right-flank cross.

Philadelphia found a route back into the game when Kacper Przybylko netted with a first-time 68th-minute strike but they could not find an equaliser.

Union came close when City keeper Pedro Gallese made a fine stop to deny Jack Elliott with Jack McGlynn's effort from the rebound hitting the post.

Orlando, who were winless in their past three games, move up to second in the east on 25 points from 14 games.

Union have now only won one of their past five games and are third in the east with 23 points from five games.

Raul Ruidiaz scored a spectacular long-range goal to lift Seattle Sounders back into top spot overall with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Austin.

Ruidiaz moved into the outright lead for most goals this season with his 11th strike, which came in stunning style.

The Peruvian swooped a loose ball, spotting Austin keeper Brad Stuver off his line and expertly firing in from range for the 67th-minute winner.

Austin thought they had a 77th-minute equaliser which was disallowed by the VAR, while Ruidiaz also had a potential second ruled out for offside.

Seattle, whose 13-game unbeaten run ended on Sunday, are up to 32 points from 15 games atop the Western Conference.

Nani scored a stunning late goal to lead high-flying Orlando City to a 2-1 win at MLS rivals Inter Miami.

Orlando rallied away to David Beckham's Inter Miami on Friday, Nani's memorable 80th-minute effort completing the comeback.

After a scoreless opening half, former Juventus and Real Madrid forward Gonzalo Higuain had come off the bench to give Inter Miami a 67th-minute lead.

Higuain scored within seven minutes of his introduction, a low shot from distance putting the hosts ahead at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.

But Orlando hit back within six minutes – Chris Mueller teed up by Nani for the equaliser before the latter decided the contest.

Former Manchester United star Nani cut onto his right foot and hit a powerful strike from the edge of the penalty area with 10 minutes remaining.

After three wins in six days, Orlando are now second in the Eastern Conference and just two points behind New England Revolution, while Inter Miami are 11th.

Daryl Dike and Benji Michel each netted a brace for Orlando City in a 5-0 rout of San Jose Earthquakes on Tuesday. 

The comfortable win moved the Lions clear of Philadelphia to sit alone in second place behind New England Revolution in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference. 

Nani opened the scoring from the spot in the seventh minute and the Orlando native Michel followed with his first goal of the season after 16 minutes. 

The USA international Dike put the game out of reach, netting in the 31st and 49th minutes with Nani assisting on both goals. 

Dike was making his first start since returning to Orlando City from a loan to Barnsley, where the 21-year-old scored nine goals in 22 appearances in all competition for the Championship side after his move during the January transfer window. 

While Dike departed after 71 minutes, Michel played the entire match for the first time this season and closed the scoring in the 90th minute. 

Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez scored and set up another as LA Galaxy earned bragging rights against Los Angeles FC in El Trafico.

In the first Los Angeles derby fixture of the MLS season, former Manchester United and Real Madrid star Chicharito guided the Galaxy to a 2-1 victory on Saturday.

Chicharito, who attempted just one shot in the loss to Seattle Sounders last time out, the sixth time in 10 MLS starts he has taken fewer than two shots (60 per cent) – he attempted fewer than two shots in just 36.7 per cent of his starts in the five major European leagues – improved his league-best tally to six goals with the 11th-minute opener at Dignity Health Sports Park, where he tucked the ball past Pablo Sisniega.

LAFC restored parity 28 minutes from the end when Diego Rossi equalised following some combination play between team-mates Latif Blessing and Corey Baird.

But the Galaxy walked away with maximum points after Chicharito teed up Jonathan dos Santos for the 79th-minute winner.

The Galaxy are second in the Western Conference, level on points with leaders San Jose Earthquakes, while LAFC are four points off the pace in eighth position.

Orlando City captain Nani stayed hot with another goal in the club's 1-1 draw against New York City.

Ex-United winger and Premier League champion Nani scored another memorable goal seven minutes into the second half, finding the back of the net with a stunning effort from the edge of the penalty area.

Nani's third goal in three games had Orlando on track for maximum points until a 77th-minute penalty via Valentin Castellanos salvaged a draw for the visitors.

"I've been working so hard and been focused on my games," Nani said post-match. "I think this is a reward [for] what you do during the week, the preparation into the games."

New York top the Eastern Conference on seven points, level with New England Revolution but a point clear of Orlando, New York Red Bulls and Nashville.

The Revolution lost 2-0 against Nashville, while the Red Bulls ran out 2-0 winners over Toronto.

Elsewhere, defending champions Columbus Crew defeated DC United 3-1, last season's Supporters' Shield winners Philadelphia Union topped Chicago Fire 2-0, Vancouver Whitecaps beat Montreal Impact by the same scoreline, Dallas and Houston Dynamo drew 1-1, while Colorado Rapids edged Minnesota United 3-2.

Nani produced a moment of magic to help Orlando City beat FC Cincinnati 3-0 in MLS, while San Jose Earthquakes and Dallas recorded crushing victories.

Tesho Akindele scored the fastest goal in club history as Orlando got off to a quick start at home to Jaap Stam's Cincinnati on Saturday.

Akindele found the back of the net after just 33 seconds, surpassing the Orlando record set by Chris Mueller (62 seconds) in April 2018.

Nani doubled the lead in stunning fashion in the 19th minute – the former Manchester United star leaving Yuya Kubo on the floor after cutting to his right foot and then his left as he curled the ball past Przemyslaw Tyton.

After Nani hit the post minutes later and saw his shot saved by Cincinnati goalkeeper Tyton just past the hour mark, Junior Urso sealed the victory with 10 minutes remaining.

Orlando – who remain unbeaten through three games – are third in the Eastern Conference, behind leaders New England Revolution and second-placed New York City.

The Revolution edged Atlanta United 2-1 and New York City defeated reigning Supporters' Shield winners Philadelphia Union 2-0.

The Earthquakes and Dallas, meanwhile, both won 4-1 against DC United and Portland Timbers respectively.

Jackson Yueill's brace and a pair of assists from Cade Cowell fuelled the Earthquakes, who are top of the Western Conference on goal difference but level on points with Real Salt Lake, LA Galaxy and Austin FC.

Dallas showed no mercy at home to the Timbers after Andres Ricaurte and Jader Obrian scored in the opening 13 minutes.

Real Salt Lake came from behind to top Sporting Kansas City 3-1 courtesy of Rubio Rubin's second-half double, while MLS newcomers Austin prevailed 1-0 against Minnesota United.

Elsewhere, New York Red Bulls were 2-0 winners over Chicago Fire, defending champions Columbus Crew were held to a goalless draw by Montreal Impact and Houston Dynamo and Los Angeles FC played out a 1-1 draw.

Nani scored a 79th-minute equaliser as Orlando City salvaged a 1-1 draw at Sporting Kansas City in MLS action on Friday.

Orlando, who opened their 2021 season with a goalless draw against Atlanta United, had not gone two consecutive games without scoring since August 2019 and they avoided doing so thanks to former Manchester United star Nani.

Gianluca Busio put Sporting KC ahead on the stroke of half-time – Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese's pass picked off by Daniel Salloi, who teed up his team-mate.

Sporting KC won their final three regular-season home games in 2020 – the last visiting side to take a regular-season point in Kansas City were Orlando on September 23.

A cheeky backheel from Nani rescued a point for visiting Orlando with 11 minutes remaining at Children's Mercy Park, where the goal had initially been ruled offside before a video review.

Both teams had goals ruled out for offside in the first half – Nicolas Isimat-Mirin's rebound and Benji Michel's effort.

Manchester City will be aiming to open up a surely unassailable 17-point gap over Manchester United with a win in Sunday's derby, yet former Red Devils winger Nani insists the Premier League leaders are not stronger than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side. 

United have received plenty of negative press lately for their poor recent record when facing other members of the so-called 'big six', with last weekend's 0-0 draw at Chelsea the sixth successive game against such calibre of opponent in which they have failed to score. 

Five of those six matches ended 0-0, while the last time United managed to get a goal against the league's biggest clubs was the 6-1 humiliation by Tottenham in early October. 

Such omens do not offer a particularly bright outlook ahead of their trip to the runaway leaders, with City heading into the weekend just one match away from setting a new club record, having now gone 28 games unbeaten across all competitions.

But ex-United star Nani, who lost four of his eight games against City for the club, insists sheer ability alone is not the reason for the gap in the table. 

Speaking to Stats Perform News, Nani said: "What I have seen of this team and what I saw from last season, United are building a strong team. They are building a young, strong team, so that's very good. 

"Man United have a great coach now and it's a matter of time [before they challenge for honours]. I think some of the players need to get more experience, learning fast how they win certain games in certain moments, because I see moments where there is no chance of losing any points and yet they lost. 

"That's why now, if you see the top of the table, it makes a little bit of difference because otherwise they would be sharing the position in the table with Man City. 

"I don't see Man City stronger than Man United, I see they look more experienced, and they are in a good form. I think the next game will be important for the end of the season if they beat Man City, we have all the chance and I think we're going to win it because that is a different game. But they have to go with everything." 

Despite his confidence in United, Nani appreciates the job Guardiola has done in 2020-21 – after all, City took just 12 points from their first eight matches amid a sluggish start to the season. 

Yet, Guardiola turned things around and City have not dropped a single point since being held to a 1-1 draw by West Brom on December 15, Nani singling out the manager's influence in restoring the confidence of certain key performers.

"I think Guardiola has been doing a great job this season, to get the team together," Nani added. "They seem a very confident team when they play.

"He brought back some players whose confidence was down, like Bernardo Silva. He put Joao Cancelo [in] - Cancelo is doing fantastic for the team, and all the players at the front, they are not scoring so many goals as before, but they have been important.

"There are players who last season did not appear so much, like [Ilkay] Gundogan, who this season has been amazing. He scored so many goals and is giving so many assists. So, it's important when you don't have important players available, like Kevin De Bruyne, you can bring another player who can appear and help the team."

While Nani alluded to Silva's increased importance, it's another Portugal international who is seen as arguably the catalyst to City's improvement this season: Ruben Dias.

The centre-back fits in perfectly with Guardiola's philosophy of building from the back and has formed an outstanding partnership with John Stones – when playing together they have won 13 of 14 Premier League matches this term, keeping 11 clean sheets, and Nani believes Dias has proven himself one of the best around.

"Yes, he's proved already that he's one of the best in the world," Nani continued. "I think if people don't think that, then very soon they will change their mind because the way he's been performing for the team, the way he has been helping in a defensive way, that is one of the reasons in the second half of the season City is performing and conceding less goals.

"It's also partly [down to] John Stones. I think it's important when the defence of the team is solid, it's much easier for the ones who play at the front to perform and to be more relaxed to create the chances to score."

Bruno Fernandes epitomises the quality Manchester United need to become "the most unstoppable team in the Premier League", according to Nani.

Fernandes has proven to be a stellar signing for United, the Portugal midfielder wowing with his performances since joining from Sporting CP just over a year ago.

He has 40 goal involvements – 23 goals and 17 assists – in 41 Premier League appearances ahead of Sunday's derby showdown with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

And Nani is delighted to see his compatriot shining at Old Trafford, with the ex-United and Sporting winger insisting Fernandes can help Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side overhaul City – if his team-mates can rise to his level.

"I'm so happy to see what he's been doing at Man United, because we had some conversations when we played together at Sporting and in one of the conversations it was to advise him to go to Man United instead of going to another Premier League team, and I'm so happy because we can see he has been performing fantastic," Nani told Stats Perform News.

"He has been a part of every goal of the team. He has been pushing the team to go get the results. When Bruno Fernandes doesn't appear, you have [Marcus] Rashford, you have other players, they have quality, but you don't see a player with the same attitude as him, with the same desire to go and make the same quality of passes.

"And if you don't have Bruno, it's very difficult to have another one. So in Man City, if Bernardo [Silva] is not there you have [Joao] Cancelo, if you don't have Canelo you have [Ilkay] Gundogan, you have many players who have more confidence and can make the same impact in the game.

"So at Man United you have players with so much power, maybe better than City I believe, much better than City, but they appear sometimes, and we want them to appear in these games.

"When they appear every time in these games, we will be the most unstoppable team in the Premier League. I'm so confident in that."

United will need to shrug off their recent malaise, which has seen them endure three goalless draws, with even Fernandes showing signs of fatigue in Wednesday's stalemate at Crystal Palace.

It was the 24th league match in which the 26-year-old completed 90 minutes for United but the first time he failed to attempt a shot at goal.

Fernandes' 15 top-flight goals this term have come at a rate of one every 153 minutes, with his total exceeding his xG (expected goals) of 11.89.

He compares favourably with City's man-of-the-moment Gundogan when it comes to creativity, with 10 assists to the German's one. Furthermore, Fernandes has an average of three chances created per 90 minutes, while Gundogan has 1.6.

It is nonetheless a huge task that faces United this weekend, with City unbeaten in 28 games in all competition – one shy of a club record.

Nani thinks Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is right to keep moving Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial around the Manchester United forward line.

Rashford and Martial - along with Mason Greenwood - led United's attack to huge success towards the end of last season.

Veteran Edinson Cavani has entered the fold this year amid debate over which of United's younger forwards will become the next number nine.

Nani, who was a Champions League winner with United, thinks the modern player can move positions regularly much more easily, even if it is not always ideal.

He thinks Solskjaer is following the methods of Alex Ferguson in selecting teams with the weaknesses of United's opponents in mind.

Nani told Stats Perform News: "We saw so many games they played together and they were successful, so yeah [Martial and Rashford can play in the same team].

"Sometimes when you change positions, game to game it can cause a little bit of impact from your game. 

"But yet this is something you have to train and prepare on every week with a coach and you have to be able to understand the game.

"You have to know what the purpose of the session was and what the manager wants for that game. 

"I think now the capacity of the players, the new generation, they are able to play in different positions at the front. 

"So Rashford can shoot with the left, with the right - he has skills, there is no problem for him to play in different positions. 

"I think that the manager is doing great because he's reading the next game. 

"So there are some games you can better use Martial central, and some you can use him better on the left wing and that's what I've been seeing the coach doing. 


"And it's true when I used to play for Man United, Alex Ferguson was reading the opponent. 

"So who is going to play on the right side? Who is better to challenge him is he slow? Do we need a player with more speed or more strength? It depends on what the game needs."

United have drawn three consecutive games 0-0 for the first time since October 2015.

While he is impressed with Rashford in general this season, Nani has highlighted an area for potential improvement that could get United out of their slump.

"Age gives you more experience, the more you see, you learn more with the more games you get," added Nani when he was asked about Rashford.

"But we know what he is capable of - he has energy, he has skills, he has goals [but] sometimes he just [needs] the desire to want to be more involved in the game.

"[He needs to] want the ball more, want to run more will his all, lose more energy in the game, instead of saving himself to the end because trying to save the energy to end up the game, sometimes you lose opportunity to make your goal or your assist when the result is already done.

"So I think he can use his strength more during the game, it will make much more difference to his game."

Martial, meanwhile, has struggled to follow up his strong 2019-20 season, when he racked up a career-high 17 Premier League goals.

The France international, who is facing a race against time to be fit in time to face Manchester City in Sunday's derby, has four goals and three assists from 21 league appearances this time around.

Nani feels a return to form is needed quickly, adding: "You know Martial has shown already he has so much potential.

"He has goals, he is strong, he is fast, he has skills. He is a player who has shown he can do much more, so we are used to seeing much more.

"At this moment he is not at his best. He can produce much more for the team. 

"I don't know what happened with the player, probably he had some injuries or he is not so confident as before. 

"But he needs to get back to his best as quickly as possible because the team need him. 

"And he needs to start scoring his goals and perform the way he used to play because he will help the team a lot."

While their struggles in front of goal have been a problem – and a sixth 0-0 draw tied their club record for a Premier League season - the Palace draw did see United hit a notable landmark.

They are the first team since Arsenal's 'Invincibles' of 2003-04 to remain unbeaten for their first 14 away games of a top-flight campaign.

Bruno Fernandes being hailed as the signing who turned around Manchester United's fortunes would have been difficult for Paul Pogba to take, according to Nani.

Fernandes has received rave reviews for his incredible performances since arriving at Old Trafford from Sporting CP just over a year ago.

The attacking midfielder has recorded 40 goal involvements – 23 goals and 17 assists – in 41 Premier League appearances, leading him to be touted as the player who can lead United back to the top.

Former United winger Nani, a four-time Premier League winner, thinks every United squad member would have had to take stock after Fernandes' stunning impact.

And adapting would have been particularly tough for Pogba, who was previously established as the star man.

Nani feels Pogba and the rest of the United players have adjusted well over the past year to increasingly incorporate Fernandes' individual brilliance into better team performances and results.

But he believes the connection between World Cup winner Pogba and Portugal international Fernandes must get stronger still.

Nani told Stats Perform News: "There are different [types of] players on the field - you have Bruno Fernandes, a smarter attacking player, and Pogba who can do a little bit of both [attacking and defending].

"Pogba can handle the game a bit for Bruno to go a little bit up [the pitch]. They have to try to have the connection. 

"It is not easy, when you [Pogba] are the player for the club, the midfield star, and another player arrives to the team and starts performing so well.

"And then [it is not easy] that everyone starts talking just about the player and, 'He made the team change, he made everything'. 

"All of that could have a little bit of an impact in every head on the team. 

"But what I see in the last games, the players adjust to that. They have confirmed [in ther minds] a little bit what Bruno can give to the team.

"And Bruno is part of the team so now they look like more of a strong team. 

"So I'm very confident about the next games until the end of the season. I think there will be a surprise to the end of the season because they are still in the Europa League. Let's see."

Pogba has just over one year left on his current contract and agent Mino Raiola said in December his client wanted to leave United.

While Raiola later backtracked somewhat during the January transfer window, he insisted he would still push for a transfer at the end of the season, though the club have talked about a new deal.

Nani was asked whether Pogba's continued presence in the headlines meant he had become a distraction for United.

"At this moment, I see him as one of the important players at Man United," Nani said about Pogba.

"But I don't know what he has on his mind, if he wants to leave or if all this news is making some problems in his head.

"I don't know if he has full concentration on the team, on the games, on the goals of the team. 

"I saw him when he was struggling with some injuries and then he came back and started playing, he was improving his performance. He was doing well. 

"He was helping the team, but we know Pogba can do much better, he can do much more because he is a top player in this position. He's not using all his strength, all his qualities. 

"But if he wants to stay at the club, for sure he will perform much better very soon. He needs to continue to improve his game, his confidence and try to help the team in the way he can."

Pogba has been out of action for a month since suffering a thigh injury in the dramatic 3-3 draw with Everton.

While United are unbeaten in seven games without him, four of those contests have been draws, including Wednesday's goalless encounter at Crystal Palace.

That was their sixth goalless Premier League draw of the season, their joint-most ever in a season, along with 2004-05 and 2016-17.

It is also the first time United have drawn three consecutive matches 0-0 in all competitions since October 2015, when they were playing under Louis van Gaal.

Manchester United became the best "school" in Nani's life once he learned how to work with Alex Ferguson – but crossing that bridge was not easy for the former Portugal star.

Nani's United career was a curious one, for he constantly had to contend with comparisons to compatriot and fellow Sporting CP product Cristiano Ronaldo, and that seemingly impacted fan expectations of him at the start.

His first season had some memorable highs, as he highlighted his penchant for a spectacular goal or two with long-range strikes against Middlesbrough and Tottenham, while also helping United to a Premier League and Champions League double, scoring in the penalty shootout that secured European glory.

Yet, despite his 12 Premier League goal involvements that term, Nani was regularly decried for a lack of consistency in his performances – a talented winger who seemed to frustrate as much as he did delight, with a man-of-the-match display in a 4-0 FA Cup win over Arsenal in February 2008 evidence of the devastating ability that perhaps was not shown enough.

After playing only 13 games – partly due to injuries – in his second domestic season, some fans might have expected United to cut their losses with Nani, but the penny seemed to drop, as he had a hand in 10 goals (six assists and four goals) in 23 appearances in the subsequent campaign and that proved the launchpad he needed.

Nani's best individual season followed in 2010-11 as he claimed 14 assists and nine goals to earn himself a place in the Professional Footballers' Association's (PFA) Team of the Year and win United's Players' Player of the Season award. The key for him? Finally understanding what made Ferguson tick.

Speaking to Stats Perform News, Nani said of his time working with Ferguson: "I think the best moment is all the trophies we won together, because I think when you play for a coach like that, the way he managed the team and always continued to win, we are privileged, no?

"But obviously, I learned to understand how to work with Alex Ferguson, because at the beginning, I was not understanding very well, because I was too emotional.

"My background, you know, you need some lessons of life, and I was learning so fast with all my team-mates and the coaches helping in that way, and I was happy at the end because they made me mature so fast.

"I learned how to play the game with them and how to behave in a big club like Man United, and that's why today when I look back, I have so great memories.

"That was my best school in all my life because what I learned from the time I had, seven years in Man United, they gave me today the capacity to be who I am and to understand things the way I understand them."

Across his time in the Premier League, only five players made more assists than Nani (43), though that figure may have been even more impressive were he not restricted by injuries to just 11 league games each in Ferguson's final season and David Moyes' solitary campaign.

Louis van Gaal subsequently decided his time at Old Trafford was up, but Nani looks back fondly on his time in Manchester, and particularly under Ferguson, whom he shared a touching moment with as he walked down the steps of the Stade de France having helped Portugal to Euro 2016 glory.

"Nani!" came the shout from Ferguson.

"Boss!" replied a visibly shocked but joyous Nani, still seeing the Scot as a person of authority despite being out of the game for three years at this point. The pair hugged and exchanged a few words before Ferguson sent his former player on his way.

And it was this personable character – rather than the authoritative figure Ferguson is often perceived to be – that Nani remembers most, yet still took some time to get used to.

"I understood that he would always like the players to go and talk with him," Nani said. "But he appreciated more when the players opened up to him and were honest, and told him whatever the truth was or whatever you needed.

"If you had any problem, he would like to have this opportunity to hear from the players, and as soon as you do that one or two times, you are more confident to talk with him, and then you feel you closer to the manager.

"You understand and you feel like, 'Oh, now he understands me, it doesn't matter if I'm happy or not'.

"So, I knew I could count on him if I needed to talk or if I needed anything, or if I wasn't in good shape or good form, it doesn't matter because he sees me as part of the team."

Now 34 and in MLS with Orlando City as he approaches the end of an illustrious career, Nani may feel he could have achieved even more on a personal level at United.

But being shaped by a man as revered as Ferguson is a claim to fame in itself.

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