Gabriel Obertan impressed for much of his début against Barnsley before looking tired in the final fifteen minutes or so. He kept the ball really well, ran at the opposition with speed and showed off his silky skills. He looks to be the real deal, regardless of what Larry White thinks.
He’s only had one game so there’s no point getting ahead of ourselves, but some sections of the press have already questioned what impact Obertan’s arrival and début might have on Nani. Is this fair?
On the spectrum of love to hate for Nani, I am found lingering on the more negative side, although do still believe there is a chance of him having a future at this club.
The comparisons between Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo were always going to be made, given they were both Portuguese, came from the same club and played the same position, although I think Nani has always been sold short.
Nani was two years older than Ronaldo when he first came and it showed. Nani was a much more complete player in his first year than Ronaldo had been in his first two years. For one thing, his shooting technique was far superior, with the blinding goals he scored against Spurs and Boro something Ronaldo would have struggled to emulate even in his last season at the club.
Their scoring rate was comparable (Ronaldo scored 4 goals in 29 league games, Nani scored 3 in 26) but Nani scored against tougher opposition. Whilst credit has to go to Ronaldo for making it 3-0 against City in the FA Cup as well as scoring in the final against Championship side Millwall, his others goals against Birmingham, Spurs, Portsmouth and Villa were hardly going to get the country to sit up and pay attention. In contrast Nani scored screamers against Spurs and Boro, but also scored against Arsenal and Liverpool, without forgetting him taking what could have been our last penalty in the shoot-out. He stepped up for our fifth penalty knowing that if he missed we had lost the European Cup but he whacked it as close to the right side of the post as he could, past Petr Cech, cool as you like. His most memorable moment of the season was probably when he took the piss out of Arsenal and squared up to Willy Gallas. Brilliant.
In Nani’s second year though he fell out of favour and was given limited opportunities. Whilst Ronaldo had the likes of Solskjaer, Fletcher (when he was crap) and Kleberson to compete with, Nani had Ronaldo (The Best Player in the World), Park, Fletcher (when he became good) and Giggs (PFA Player of the Year) to compete with.
I’m not Nani’s biggest fan but I can’t help but think the negative attitude towards him has been encouraged because of the comparison’s to Ronaldo, but the truth is, Nani’s raw ability when he first came was superior of Ronaldo’s, in terms of shooting and crossing in particular, but he’s never been given the same run at the team Ronaldo was. Remember when Ronaldo was not so fondly referred to as a ‘one trick pony’ in the press and by rival fans, that ‘one trick’ being the stepover. He was fairly infuriating to watch, going to ground too easily, having lame attempts on goal and not getting his crosses past the first man. But he was afforded the time to improve because of the inferior squad we had between 2003 and 2005. Nani came in at a higher level but wasn’t given that same opportunity to gain experience and improve because our squad was so much better.
So this has to be his last season to really give him a shot and being a starting player for United. He may never fulfil the potential with us and go on to be a great player for another club, but we have to give him a real go. So far it’s all been a bit half-hearted.
2009-2010: 45 minutes against Brum, nothing against Burnley, 90 minutes against Wigan, 90 minutes against Arsenal, 8 minutes against Spurs, 90 minutes against Besiktas, didn’t get off the bench against City, 90 minutes in the League Cup, 56 minutes against Stoke, didn’t get off the bench against Wolfsburg, 90 minutes against Sunderland, didn’t get off the bench against Bolton, 90 minutes against CSKA Moscow, 15 minutes against Liverpool, not in the squad against Barnsley.
Sir Alex Ferguson has today claimed that Obertan will likely be in the squad for tomorrow’s match against Blackburn, leaving Nani, Valencia and Giggs to fight over the starting positions, with Park still a few weeks away from recovery.
Obertan looks great, I’d love to think he has a bright future at the club, I’d like to see him getting sub appearances in the league and a starting place in the cups, but this season has to be Nani’s final push. We paid £17m for the lad and he has shown flashes of absolute brilliance. Equally, he has been totally infuriating. But the last totally infuriating player we had went on to be the best in the world, so maybe it’s in our best interest to try to be a little more patient with Nani.