Poor old Nani at United. It hasn’t really worked out for him has it? Apart from the occasional 30-yard wonder goal, gymnastic style flips and defensive keepy-uppies in his own half against Arsenal at Old Trafford…it’s been hugely disappointing.
Speaking of his juggling tricks against Arsenal, the Portuguese winger turned on the heat against the Gunners again on Sunday, much to the disbelief of Gael Clichy, who must have thought his defensive work for afternoon would be non-existent after watching videos of Nani’s inept performances this season before the game.
However Clichy would find out what many of us knew already, Nani is completely unpredictable.
There’s no doubting the fact that Nani has got ability. Quick, skillful, athletic and a decent shot. He really has got the credentials to be a big star. And perhaps that’s why so many people get on his back. He just isn’t able to do it consistently. I made a sneaky little prediction at the start of the season that Nani would rise to the challenge in the wake of Ronaldo’s departure, but it never happened.
He didn’t look half bad in the Community Shield against Chelsea, getting the better of Ashley Cole on more than one occasion (even Ronaldo struggled to do this on a regular basis) and it seemed that when the season started he would hit the ‘ground running’.
But perhaps I’m really trying to give him credit there. At least against Arsenal we did get to see the real Nani. Bit of pace, nice tricks and the shanked cross that ended up in the net. Oh well, nearly a full package. The problem is, he’s always going to get compared to a fellow countryman which doesn’t always help your cause.
‘Please don’t compare me to Ronaldo’.
So you can look at it two ways. Someone compares you to the best player in the world (in terms of similar style of play). You either
(1) take it as a huge compliment and become desperate to follow in their footsteps or
(2) crumble under the comparison.
It’s not the case that Ronaldo is any more skilful than Nani, it’s just perhaps the way in which he uses it, when he uses it and where he uses it. The choices and decisions that Ronaldo makes on a football pitch are far more effective and well timed than that of Nani. However Nani did show against Arsenal that when he makes the right decisions, his ability can win games alone.
Also, ask yourself this: Is Ronaldo any quicker than Nani?
Probably not. The one thing he is though is stronger. So many flair players have come and gone out of the EPL because they haven’t been able to look after themselves. All the skills and ability in the world, but lacking the ability to hold their own when it came to the first sight of a tackle coming in.
Yes, Ronaldo dived to heaven and beyond, but he had the strength to hold off opponents, to tower above them when going for a header and the strength in durability to perform for a whole 90 minutes. Consistently.
Yes, an argument can be that there have been more foreign imports into the EPL who have had a successful time in Enlgand and I do not doubt that. But there have also been the fair few,such as Pauleta, Veron and Morientes, who have not been able to cut it. Nani could be in danger of joining them.
Start of good things?
Let’s just hope that this wasn’t a one off and that for the remainder of the season, Nani can keep firing on all cylinders. United are possibly going through another transition phase under Ferguson and we’ve seen this kind of situation before. There is no doubting that Nani could be the worthy suitor to Ronaldo’s throne, but only time will tell.
When Eric Cantona left United in 1997, Teddy Sheringham was brought in to replace him, and it took the former Spurs striker at least a season, if not more, for him to really make his mark at United. He might have been at the peak of his career at the time, but if it’s the pressure that’s causing Nani to not reach the high expectations he’s accredited with, then he can look to United’s history books for inspiration.
Many a United player has had to deal with criticism at some points in their Red Devils careers and have lived to tell the tale. It will be interesting to see what happens to Nani at Old Trafford in the near future.