United’s rags-to-riches new boy has time of his life on debut
ABANDONED by his parents, raised by his grandmother until he was aged 12, placed in a residential home before being spotted by a football agent which eventually saw him swap the streets of Lisbon for Old Trafford football stadium.
Twenty-year-old Tiago Manuel Dias Correia, nicknamed Bebé, made his first-team debut for Manchester United last night in the Carling Cup capping an extraordinary rise from obscurity that is football’s equivalent of the movie Slumdog Millionaire.
Signed by the Red Devils for £7.4 million, Bebé was still living in the residential home among orphans when he was lining out for Estrela in the Portugeuse third division.
Alex Ferguson’s pre-season recruitment of the youngster raised eye-brows, especially when the Scot revealed he had never seen the player in action, not even on video.
“It was one of those decisions that had to be made quickly, so I made it quickly,” Ferguson said. “I don’t think it’s a risk.”
However, the player’s initial performances in training were so sub-standard, he was not even considered for reserve team action.
The manager angrily rejected this criticism.
“Bebé is on a programme doing endurance work because his fitness levels are not near the ones we are at,” Ferguson said. “Other than that he has done well. Ability-wise he is excellent. He is a terrific finisher. We have been very impressed with that. It is just the fitness levels he needs to get to.”
Bebé was included in United’s Champion’s League squad for the clash with Rangers but did not see action. His rise to prominece, however, saw him make his international debut for the Portuguese U21’s against England earlier this month.
A row between agents who are claiming to represent the player is threatening to involve FIFA while Ferguson continues to come under scrutiny for splashing out on a player who had been initially released from Estrela.
There may well be a sub-plot to the story revolving around the murky world of football agents, but they are of little relavance to the player himself.
With a permanent expression like that of scarred puppy, Bebé’s face betrays an upbringing far removed from the pampered lives of many of today’s footballers.
In the 75th minute of last night’s Carling Cup clash away to Scunthorpe, Bebé was introduced to the action making his first-team debut for Manchester United.
Alex Ferguson believes he may have unearthed a contender and the player himself, who has rolled with the punches life has thrown at him, is not prepared to side-step the fight that awaits him.
“I am going to be a brilliant player for Manchester United.”
It may not have been Old Trafford yet but for Tiago Manuel Dias Correia, last night, Glanford Park in Scunthorpe was still his Theatre of Dreams.