EXCLUSIVE: Why Manchester United’s Mane target from Portugal has Ronaldo potential

by Sam Peoples

Hi Jan. Can you introduce yourself to the readers?

I’m a Norwegian freelance journalist who writes about the Portuguese football as I, among other things, contribute to the Official 2014 FIFA World Cup magazines. I’ve followed the league closely for three years now and I love it more than my dog. I think.

Manchester United have been linked to Sporting Lisbon’s Carlos Mane in the past two weeks. What can you tell us about the 19-year-old?

Carlos Mané is a pure Sporting product as he has been at the club since he was six. Sporting is known for having a great academy which has molded players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Nani, João Moutinho, etc (I could go on forever but that may have turned out to be boring in the end).

Sporting manager Leonardo Jardim is using Carlos as a left winger but he can also play as a striker. Carlos is a small, quick and technical player, who likes to have the ball in his feet. He has also shown that he possesses the valuable goal-poacher gene as he has four goals in four starts for Sporting’s first team. He renewed with Sporting last summer on a contract lasting to 2018. He has also got a €45 million release clause.

Has he been performing consistently all season or is his current form his best form this season?

Before Christmas, Carlos mainly played at Sporting’s B team and it is only recently in 2014 that he has got a chance with the first team. He has made good use of these opportunities and has scored a goal every 92 minute in 2014 for the first team (four goals in seven games including three substitute appearances). That includes match-winning goals in Sporting’s two last matches against Olhanense and Rio Ave. That’s quite impressive for an unproven 19-year-old winger.

United famously signed Ronaldo from Sporting when he was a teenager – does Mane have the same potential as Ronaldo did?

It’s too soon to say but the early signs have shown a very talented, young guy who absolutely has what it takes to become a great footballer with the right attitude and enough time on the pitch.

This is his breakthrough season – is it too early for him to move away?

Yes, I would say so.

He needs more experience and he’s still too weak to challenge the big boys in Premier League. Some of us will remember Tiago Ilori and Bruma who both had great success with Sporting last season but who both left last summer (for Liverpool and Galatasaray, respectively).

Ilori is now at loan at La Liga side Granada after five months at Liverpool without playing football (hardly played matches for their Under-21 team). Bruma was a bit luckier as he has actually played quite a few matches for Galatasaray before he got injured and sidelined for six months in January.

Well, my point is, leaving too early is not the way to go. At least if you already have a good place to develop as the Portuguese league is for a young player like Mané. Experience and maturity are needed to succeed in tougher and more competitive leagues. Carlos Mané has neither. So, the simple answer to your question is no.

Of course, it would be silly to talk about Mane without mentioning William Carvalho, the 21-year-old midfielder who Manchester United have scouted on more than 12 occasions this year. What do you think about him as a player?

I may be William Carvalho’s biggest fan. If it hadn’t been for the absence of interest in Portuguese football in Norway, I would be the founder and president of William Carvalho’s Norwegian Fan Club. If you want to read more of my thoughts on William Carvalho you can read a piece I wrote for Sport Witness on him last week.

Do you think Carvalho will be a Sporting player next year?

That’s a really tough question. At the moment, I think it’s more likely that he’ll leave than stay. With Manchester United watching him week in and week out and several other clubs wanting him, there’s a good possibility someone we’ll put what Sporting President Bruno de Carvalho wants for him on the table. Carvalho is a very mature, young man who seems ready for a move to a bigger club.

Finally, are there any other players in the Portuguese league who you think Manchester United should be looking at signing?
Alex Sandro – One of the most promising left-backs around.

Fernando – A defensive midfielder who’d strengthen most teams in the world. Porto’s most important players in recent years.

Ezequiel Garay – The Argentine defender was close to join Manchester United last summer. Been magnificent the last couple of months.

Eliaquim Mangala – Very talented centre-back. The fee is high, but he’s a physical beast, who got great pace, strength and agility. The heart of Porto’s defense.

You can follow Jan Hagen here on Twitter.

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