Manchester United

Fall from Grace: Nani

NaniManchester United had won the Premiership in 2006-07 but there were fears that they would not be able to strengthen as their rivals did due to financial constraints brought on by Malcolm Glazer’s takeover. This proved to be far from the case though as United splashed out over £30 million on the duo of Anderson and Nani with £17 million going on the latter. The Portuguese international was meant to be one of the world’s top talents with a pendant for cracking goals and great skills and United fans were left drooling by the prospects of both him and Anderson.

Nani had made a name for himself at Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon who he had joined as a teenager. Breaking through the ranks, Nani had spent two years playing for the first team for Sporting – racing down the wing past players and cutting inside to fire home shots – where his reputation had flown very quickly. Likened to United’s former Sporting Lisbon star Cristiano Ronaldo, due to them both being trick ponies who’d been effective in Portugal, United moved quickly to use their links with Sporting to bring the Portuguese to Old Trafford where expectations were high for another Ronaldo. Portuguese legend Paulo Sousa declared

“He’s very explosive and very strong. He’s fast and is going to be a great signing for United.”

Nani’s first season at Old Trafford was largely effective as he played often and showed a good ability to beat his man and charge down the wing, scoring a few goals and looking highly talented in the process. The highlight of the season for Nani was a man of the match performance against Arsenal in the FA Cup which United won 4 – 0 where Arsenal players had to revert to attacking him to get him off the ball. His second season at United was where it started to go wrong though; he was used sparingly by manager Alex Ferguson and showed inconsistency when he played, wasting many opportunities which led to United supporters becoming very frustrated with him. Nani’s inconsistency and wastefulness led to some United fans declaring that Nani would never be like Ronaldo and should be sold from the team.

The 2009/10 season was meant to be the making of Nani as the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and the ageing legs of Ryan Giggs gave the Portuguese the chance to start the season as United’s first choice left winger. Although he scored in the Community Shield season opener against Chelsea Nani continued to flatter to deceive and, after a few lacklustre performances, was removed from the first team in favour of Giggs who has kept the first choice left wing spot with stellar performances since.

Whilst Nani is still just 23 many are questioning whether his potential can be fulfilled with it looking more likely that he’s destined to be nothing more than an inconsistent waster. Many United fans think he should be sold as it is, and Nani made his departure even more likely by criticising boss Ferguson for his style of management. United have recently been linked with a move for Benfica’s Angel Di Maria with Nani included as part of the deal, given how his stock has fallen United will probably jump at the deal.

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