Will Nani ever fill the hole?

Manchester United midfielder NaniIf there is one aspect of Cristiano Ronaldo that there is no debating Nani has in abundance it’s his confidence in his own ability bordering on arrogance. The similarities with Ronaldo do not end there though. Both arrived as promising youngsters though far from the finished product form Sporting Lisbon. Nani like Ronaldo took a couple of seasons facing criticism for immature performances that lacked an end product, often resulting in rare moments of skill that petered out into nothing. Now though the question is this season has his performances matured sufficiently to fill the extremely large boots of Cristiano Ronaldo? Quite simply he hasn’t. This is not to take away from Nani’s growing maturity, improvement and performances this season, but Ronaldo in his pomp at United was at times unplayable and far and away the best player Red Devils. At times he took it upon himself to take the game to the opposition when the rest of the team appeared rather pedestrian, or lacked a cutting edge. This worked countless for United countless times in the Premiership notably with a last minute winner against a stubborn Fulham side earning a crucial three points on their way to the title in 2007. However this swashbuckling approach did have his drawbacks. United fans will recall the 2009 Champion League Final and how Ronaldo endeavoured too much to be the star of the show, often tacking the wrong decision to go it alone in an effort to outshine Barcelona’s Messi. An effort that backfired tremendously with United going on to lose 2-0 and being outplayed for vast periods of the game. The sad thing is although Nani is not yet, and I bet never will be, as talented as Ronaldo to therefore win matches by single-handedly taking the game to the opposition. He has got his level of arrogance about believing things must centre around him and time well tell how sufficiently he has learned to control himself on the pitch, head butting West Ham’s Lucas Neil.

The main problem United had with replacing Ronaldo is simply that you cannot simply replace such a talented influential player easily with a like for like. Although it was a stupid amount of money Ronaldo is the world’s most expensive player for a reason. And the next talented winger to come from Sporting Lisbon is not inevitably going to follow up this success. Although Nani has started to improve his maturity and all round game after a couple of seasons where he was too greedy and fruitless with the ball, he has not raised it to the extremely high bar Ronaldo has set. He will never bag 40 goals in a season or push the team to greater heights like Ronaldo did. Upon Ronaldo’s departure more emphasis was placed on the team as a whole to step up and fill the void. Rooney in particular benefited from the greater responsibility. Now with Valencia’s injury, a player who was very helpful to Rooney’s success and goal tally, and Rooney’s drop in form and injury others are having to step up to the plate. Primarily Berbatov is showing the form of a star striker, and yes Nani too has upped his game. But United at the moment are not at the same level they were in 2008 or 2009. A lot of this is down to Ronaldo’s departure and as good as Nani can become he will not be able to do what Ronaldo can. Manchester United as a great club can get back to that level but not through one man taking on Ronaldo’s creative impetus, attacking intent and goal scoring record alone. It will need to be a far more of a team responsibility, albeit still scattered with stars just none shining as brightly as Ronaldo’s did.