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After success with Viettel, goalie Manh targets return to national team

Goalkeeper Tran Nguyen Manh has been a rock at the back for Viettel FC and played a key role in their journey to become V.League 1 champions.

Goalkeeper Tran Nguyen Manh has played an important part in Viettel's successful V.League 1 campaign. Photo

The 28-year-old joined Viettel from Song Lam Nghe An (SLNA) earlier this season and quickly became a reliable player for the Hanoi-based team.

Manh played all 20 matches in the national premier league and conceded only 16 goals, a stinginess only equalled by Hanoi FC.

In the second leg of the tournament, the player from the central province of Nghe An truly showed his worth.

After conceding once in the opening match against Hoang Anh Gia Lai, Manh kept a clean sheet in the remaining six matches, helping his side take five 1-0 wins and a 0-0 draw.

Manh's performance showed his command of the position, from claiming crosses to reaction saves, he showed the full bag of tricks.

"I am really happy. This is my first season for Viettel. Viettel deserve the championship,” said Manh.

“At this time last year, the decision to leave SLNA was very difficult for me. I chose Viettel because this is a good environment for me to develop. Joining Viettel was the right decision for me,” he added.

Manh, who had played for SLNA for 10 years before moving to Viettel, was the best goalkeeper of the 2019 football season with nine clean sheets for SLNA.

Goalkeeper Tran Nguyen Manh poses for a photo with his wife after taking the V.League 1 title. — Photo

Saddest memory in career

There are mistakes in the career of any goalkeeper, but Manh's mistake in the match between Vietnam against Indonesia in the second leg of the semi-final of the AFF Cup 2016 on December 7, 2016 was devastating. He was sent off after kicking an Indonesian striker.

Defender Que Ngoc Hai had to replace Manh in goal with Vietnam down to 10 men, in a match Vietnam would go on to draw 2-2 after extra time, sealing their elimination at Hanoi-based My Dinh National Stadium 4-3 on aggregate.

However, after that failure, Manh bounced back with SLNA and won the 2017 National Cup.

“For me as a goalkeeper, there are many happy and sad memories. In the match against Indonesia, I was too sad. That game took place so quickly while Vietnam were losers. I just wanted to get the game over as quickly as possible. And then the team lost and were eliminated. I received countless criticisms. It was a memorable lesson for me,” Manh said.

“Although there was a lot of criticism, there were also a lot of fans, especially my family, that always encouraged me. In addition, I was told by former national team striker Le Cong Vinh that I had to soon forget all the problems and the important thing was how I performed on the training ground. When I returned to SLNA, I was always trusted by coach Duc Thang and the leadership, helping me to come back stronger,” he added.

Goalkeeper Tran Nguyen Manh and a sad memory in the AFF Cup 2016. — Photo

Desire to return to national team

In early 2018, Manh was injured in a match at the AFC Cup 2018 when playing for SLNA, knocking him out for a year.

In 2019, he was selected by coach Park Hang-seo to the national team but he missed the 2022 World Cup qualifiers because of an elbow injury.

In the latest squad from the South Korean coach, Manh wasn’t named, something that motivates him to perform well for Viettel.

“Coach Park regularly attends the V.League 1 matches. For any player, it is a huge opportunity to present yourself to the national coach. However, what I think in every match is to focus on playing well, how to contribute to the club to get the best results,” said Manh.

“All Vietnamese players are looking forward to playing for the national team. Me too, I will continue to work hard to have a good performance for my club to seek chances,” he added.

Talent of Nghe An

Inheriting his talent from his father, a physical education teacher, at the age of 12, Manh applied to join the SLNA football training centre and was successful.

At first, Manh played as a striker. However, once he had a go at playing goalie, the coaches quickly noticed his ability.

In 2012, Manh was promoted to the senior team of SLNA as the second choice behind Nguyen Viet Nam. At the end of the 2012 season, when Nam suffered a serious injury, Manh got his opportunity.

Following excellent performances in the final matches of the V.League 1 2012 season, Manh became the No 1 goalkeeper of SLNA.

In 2013, Manh was in the U23 team to compete in the Southeast Asian Games 27 in Myanmar and two years later, he was in the squad for the Vietnamese team competing in the Asian Cup 2015.  VNS

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