Remember that performance against Arsenal at the Emirates? Last season, on a freezing Sunday afternoon in London. The game came in the wake of some misguided comments about Sir Alex Ferguson – it seemed Nani’s Manchester United career was over. He got the nod for the game and hasn’t looked back. His skill past Gael Clichy was sublime – sure Manuel Almunia should have done better but it was a sign of what Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United knew all along – this kid was special. Ever since that game, Nani has looked at home at Old Trafford. After Christmas last season something clicked. He improved in front of goal, scoring a sublime chip against Tottenham at Old Trafford. Has the ‘new Ronaldo’ tag left him, or has he learned to embrace such a compliment. With injuries to Wayne Rooney and Antonio Valencia, Nani has a great opportunity to continue to lead Manchester United this season.
Whatever the reason for Nani’s remarkable improvement, Manchester United are the true winners of this. It may have taken two and a half years of frustrating crosses, failed 30 yard efforts and a couple of kick ups but Nani looks the part now. He has managed to bring a level of consistency to his game that was lacking before. If you look at United’s greats, they had if nothing else, consistency. The sign of a real top player is the ability to produce a magical performance on Saturday and then replicate it the next week. Nani has a lot of work to do, but he now seems to believe in ability and is worthy of his place in the Manchester United squad.
This season the winger has been one of Manchester United’s best players. Maybe the injury that forced him to withdraw from the World Cup has helped him, and Manchester United this season. His start to the season as well as Dimitar Berbatov’s is one of the reasons Manchester United are only five points behind leaders Chelsea. In the Premier League the Portuguese winger has netted four times in ten appearances. However it has been his assists that have really caught the eye this season. Nani has assisted nine goals in the Premier League this season, including two against Everton. This was the frustrating issue with Nani. Nani was infuriating to watch, his final ball was woeful and his decision making left a lot to be desired. He has transformed his game completely and United have been kept alive by this improvement this season.
The real shame for Manchester United this season was the injury to Antonio Valencia. Manchester United would have had one orthodox winger on the right, with an excellent delivery – look at how many goals Wayne Rooney scored last season from Valencia’s crosses. Added to this Nani from the left. He offeres something different, something special, be it a trick or a sublime strike. If Nani can keep his form up and keep Manchester United in the title race, when Rooney and Valencia return, Manchester United could do it again – against all odds and win the Premier League. However, the pressure is firmly on Nani and can be deliver. So far the signs look positive.
Nani without doubt can fire United to the title this season, but it will take a monumental effort. He has the confidence and the ability to become one of the best players in the world. Players with confidence try new things and suprise both goalkeepers and defenders. This is what Nani must continue to do, and Sir Alex Ferguson mustn’t be worried to keep playing him. Manchester United will not win or loose the league in the period before and after Christmas. However, if Nani can keep his form up and keep United as close as possible, with key players returning who would bet against Premier League title for Manchester United.
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