Nani has been a player that has split opinion for some time which meant there were mixed responses to news that he had agreed a new five-year-deal with the club. Not long ago, it appeared as though Nani would certainly be leaving the club and had Sir Alex Ferguson remained as manager, I imagine the Portuguese winger would have gone. Last summer, he was flogged all around Europe and the club even agreed a deal with Zenit St Petersburg. Nani wanted to stay though so demanded ridiculous wages to ensure that the move fell through.
This summer, Nani had just one year remaining on his current contract and with Ferguson unwilling to offer the £130k-a-week deal the player wanted, it was assumed the club would sell to the highest bidder to stop him from leaving on a free next year.
However, Nani’s situation changed when David Moyes got the job, and it’s clear our new manager is keen to give him a go. Personally, I am delighted by this. Whilst of course Ferguson was a brilliant manager, he was only human, and it seems as though he just wasn’t keen to keep Nani, for whatever reason. If we had better wingers than Nani, I would see sense in this, but there is no way that Ashley Young should be keeping him out of the team. Still, Young and Valencia were Ferguson’s first choice, when they were fit. Nani is a better player than both of them though and it’s great to see him given another chance.
I don’t mean to be harsh on Antonio Valencia though, who was voted into the PFA Team of the Year at the end of his first season at United. While it was clear he was no Cristiano Ronaldo, despite filling his position on the right wing, he managed to completely raise his game after moving to Old Trafford.
In his first season he scored as many goals as he had in total for Wigan in the previous four seasons combined and played a huge part in Wayne Rooney’s excellent form that year.
Valencia started the following season with a goal against Chelsea in the Community Shield but a couple of weeks later he broke his ankle in our Champions League game against Rangers.
While this was dreadful news for United, it turned out to be very beneficial for Nani who was able to spend the season on his preferred right wing. I interviewed Nani a few years ago and he insisted he was happy to play on either wing, but there’s no denying he has his better games on the right.
With Rooney asking to leave the club in 2010, then changing his mind, but failing to be much of a threat in front of goal until our second half of the season, Nani was our saviour as we marched on to break Liverpool’s title record and earned us our 19th English league championship.
Dimitar Berbatov deserves a mention, given he was the league’s top scorer that season, but Nani claimed more assists than any other player, with three more than Drogba, four more than Fabregas, and double the number of David Silva. He was voted Manchester United player of the season by his team mates and was vital to our success that season.
Nani has failed to reach such highs since though, much to the frustration of the fans, and is regularly given stick from the Old Trafford crowd. Their patience has seemingly run out, so even when he makes his first mistake of the game the crowd are on his back straight away. But he is a frustrating player because his decision-making can often be very poor. He will do the most difficult part, in beating the player, but then will take one touch too many, pass to the wrong player or won’t be able to pull off a particular bit of skill.
However, the nature of flair players like Nani is that they will try more audacious tricks, and that is what you want to see, but it’s so irritating when it doesn’t work – particularly when a much easier ball has been missed.
When it comes to ability, Nani is one of our best players though, and has ripped apart Chelsea, City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs in the past – scoring incredible goals and playing in a way very few players can. On his day, he is unplayable but unfortunately those days have become few and far between.
Of course Nani has to take some responsibility for that, as well suffering from several injuries, but his cause wasn’t helped by Ferguson.
He lost his spot on the right once Valencia returned from injury and in more recent seasons hasn’t been given a regular run in the team. Fergie clearly didn’t fancy him any more and didn’t give the player the opportunity to redeem himself. He barely got a look in last season which was ridiculous when you look at how badly Valencia and Young played.
Under David Moyes it’s a clean slate for Nani and, with a new five-year deal, hopefully we’ll see the very best from him.
Valencia’s form is hit and miss these days so there’s no reason why Nani can’t stake a claim for that starting right wing spot – especially if the fans can get off his back and give him a bit of support. But even if Nani was losing out on the right wing to play on the left, with Wilf Zaha also starting, I think we could be terrifying on the attack. They are similar players and what they attempt won’t always work, but if they were given a regular place in the starting XI, you would we would see a great consistency in their performances. He’s a quality player and now 26-years-old, he should be hitting his peak. Fingers crossed he goes on to become the top player he’s always looked capable of becoming.