Manu Dos Santos: "The derby? My first match as a professional"
Make way for the Côte d’Azur derby! This Sunday November 8 at 5 pm, The Niçois and the Monegasques will face off in search of regional supremacy accoridng to Manu Dos Santos. Now in charge of the U17s, the former fullback, trained at AS Monaco, made his first appearance as professional at the Stade du Ray on July 25, 1995. It’s an excellent memory which does not erase a feeling of dissatisfaction from ten years later, when he returned to the Club. Here are some derby memories with Manu Dos Santos!
Manu, a match between AS Monaco and OGC Nice is, first of all, one which creates an excellent memory for you …
It is true. This fixture was my first match as a pro, in Nice (July 25, 1995). I came on a few minutes from time — it was not planned. The manager had already made two changes, and he had sent two other players to warm up. Then there was a in injury, and he turned to me to tell me that I was going to come on. It was perhaps better this way, because I didn’t have time to think about it and give myself too many doubts. And that was also something that finished well because we won away. Obviously, it’s something that makes a big impression on you.
… But also another more memory, one that was more painful, ten years later.
It was semi-final at home in the Coupe de la Ligue, a match that remains a difficult memory (February 7, 2006). We had dominated in the match and had plenty of chances to score, but we failed to make a breakthrough And then, close to full time, we conceded a goal which deprived us of playing a final in the Stade de France…
Between these two matches, you also turned out for Marseille and Montpellier. Did you keep this idea of a derby in mind even if you have another jersey on your shoulders?
When I was playing for Marseille there was also a rivalry with Nice, which added spice to this fixture. Whether with OM or AS Monaco, playing against Le Gym was always an important moment. When I was with Strasbourg between 2007 and 2008, it was different. It was the fact of coming back to play at home in front of my family that gave me a little extra motivation.
What can you tell us about the Stade du Ray, where Nice played before moving to the Allianz Riviera?
The stadium was super crazy. The configuration of the stands was old-fashioned, with the fans very close to the pitch. So as a full-back, when you took the ball, there was always a pretty electric atmosphere, but it was above all super motivating. Getting to face adversity like that and being able to play well is exhilarating. I have always enjoyed this kind of atmosphere.
As a player who was trained at AS Monaco, we can imagine that the derbies have always had a special place on the calendar…
I grew up here, so it’s something that has been important to me since I was little. Whether in football school or afterwards, I’ve always liked this type of match, this kind of derby with OGCN or even with Cavigal. It was a match we couldn’t wait to play, because we knew there would be tension and that the outcome could often be random and unpredictable. This is the type of match where no matter your position in the table, anything can happen. The team who were higher-ranked did not always win, far from it.
So you had a sort of role of ambassador to your teammates who did not come of age here?
I sometimes spoke with my teammates during the week about the importance of the derby. Most of my teammates weren’t from the area, so I tried to give them that extra bit of soul. It is the supremacy of the region that would be at stake.
And when you’re a coach like you are today with the U17s how do you talk about this match to your players?
You have to make them understand that this is a special match. They know the concept of derby through all the games they see on television and the various interviews they read with the players. But playing in a derby is different. We have to get them to understand. In Nice, their players are from the region so they already have this idea. It’s different for us because our academy players come from all over France. We try to make them aware of this match which is generally very tightly fought on the pitch but which also in the mind. However, we must not forget that it is still a football match. We have to find a balance between that sensibility and the importance this match has for the Club.