The Nani State: What is happening with him? Is Fergie prepared to lose him? Is there a a future for the man some call ‘United’s enigma’?
The United winger has always lived with a lot of expectation, being another Portuguese winger at a club where Cristiano Ronaldo lit up the stage, it was always going to be hard, but this is Manchester United and hopes are always high. It would be fair to say that when Ronaldo moved on, the space was there for Nani to become his own player, no longer in his shadow, some are still waiting for that to happen. At some points it has seemed Nani’s biggest fault was not being Ronaldo but not being as good as one of the best players in the world is hardly a lynching offence, in his defence you have to point out that all he can be is the best he can do, expecting a copy will not help anyone.
So once you have debunked the myth that he can be the new Ronaldo, you are left with Nani, and the see saw of opinions he inspires every time he puts on that United shirt. Nani’s problem and the stick he is beaten with by fans and the manager is his consistency, something which Sir Alex Ferguson believed would improve with maturity but it’s a problem that is as evident today as it was shortly after the other winger became a Real gone kid. One of the biggest mistakes any foreigner seems to make is growing the balls to speak about their club when they are back in their homeland on International duty, this often leads to grovelling upon their return, something along the lines of ‘I was misquoted gaffer, honestly’. Nani spoke to a Portuguese newspaper in November 2009 and had an opinion on the issues of consistency and pressure:
“I could be doing better, scoring more, but just think, I make a huge game today but the next one, I’m not even sure that I will play. Such a situation breaks the confidence.” (Reported in The Guardian, 12th November 2009). Ask David de Gea, about that one, Luis, it’s possible he might have a few words for you on that subject, but the telling part of the interview which brings it into current focus is when he talks about the ‘big games’ and how he ‘never’ gets to play in them.
Nani is a Jekyll and Hyde type player, he can go from man of the match displays or pissing off Arsenal players with interesting ways to keep possession and make them angry at the same time. It’s this unknown element that has Sir Alex deciding against him, because when you need a performance you need to know that each player out there will hit the same heights to achieve victory. His decision making was and is questionable, sometimes rather than pass to someone who will score he will try and beat three players and chip the ‘keeper. Sometimes it’s about putting the ball in the net or helping someone else do that, in fact, that’s MOSTLY what it’s about. At times last season we saw it, and could be forgiven for thinking it had finally clicked. It may seem to Nani that he gives a hundred percent every time he is required, and it may insult him that people question that but he doesn’t always present himself as if he cares and if ever that needed to change, it is this season.
This season while some elsewhere have been demanding his sale, GTS has been one of the voices arguing to keep him, sign him and see what happens. In some games, you really can see that he is trying to make things happen almost as if he knows he needs it to for his future; but other times he doesn’t help himself. Sometimes he plays like a player who is out of options, maybe he is. The evidence for the prosecution includes missing penalties and driving away from the ground when he realised he wasn’t in the squad, training ground bust-ups and transfers collapsing.
Of course ‘the transfer’ subject is an interesting one; back in August, Manutd.com reported on The Telegraph story;
...senior figures at Old Trafford have insisted that the club ‘will not entertain’ attempts to prise Nani… Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg are keen to sign Nani, with coach Luciano Spalletti revealing last Friday that contact has been made with United over the Portuguese winger. –
Mark Ogden, The Telegraph, August 2012 reported on manutd.com 22/08/2012
Just over two weeks later, reports suggested that Zenit had spoken to Nani and that the deal was only scuppered by the player’s wage demands. Reports in the Daily Mail (6th September) went on to talk about “Nani finding himself outside Sir Alex Ferguson’s preferred line-up”, they hammer the point that “Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young are ahead of Nani in the pecking order on the wings” and that a move was inevitable.
A Given to Score source told us, “The writing is on the wall for Nani, when he is wasteful United are wasteful, Sir Alex chose to play no wingers in a European match, that’s unprecedented. He doesn’t trust him to deliver. That says it all.”
Whilst we thank said individual for their contribution to our work, we feel that it’s only proper to point out that on the night in question; EVERY United winger was at home, not just the one in focus here.
The Diamond formation is very highly regarded at the moment, Sir Alex’s use of it has been spoken of as yet more evidence of his managerial class and it has yielded more commanding performances against Cluj and Newcastle United, than we have seen in previous games, but it couldn’t have come at a worse time for Nani and you may argue that it’s come about BECAUSE of the issue with him. Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young seem to be first choice, we have Ryan Giggs who can put in a shift when he is required but probably not every week, and we have Kagawa who can play on the wing too. If Valencia and Young are not available, given Nani’s performances when he is called upon, it makes sense for Sir Alex to find a system which, rather than demand a lot from a player who may not deliver, does away with the need for wingers completely.
Paul Doyle talks of the game against Cluj, the diamond and how a United line up without width was “was virtually unprecedented for United”.
…Antonio Valencia, Nani and Ashley Young were all left out as Ferguson packed the centre in an effort to secure greater control of an area where United have been second best too often. It worked insofar as United enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and the lack of width did not prove too costly.
Paul Doyle, The Guardian Thursday 4 October 2012.
It does bring greater adaptability to United’s side, when it’s brought out it can have a number of combinations; Kagawa can play where he did against Newcastle or he can play in the position used by Rooney, Cleverley is at home centrally and Darren Fletcher could play where Michael Carrick does, that’s even before you consider Giggs or Scholes. Manchester United will carry on without Nani, nothing says that quite like a formation that doesn’t even require his playing role. It’s the opposite of playing a player to show how much he is loved, Manchester United would rather drop him and replace him for one or two weeks, probably until he realises he wants to make the grade at Old Trafford. In the event that a player thinks he is above that, he will be reminded of his place in the pyramid in one way or another.
Of course in January, Nani may well have done enough to earn that new contract he ‘wants desperately’ but Manchester United are interesting creatures to observe when a player is negotiating. Wesley Brown was dropped and his attitude questioned in the media, United arguably sat on their thumbs a little for Danny Welbeck’s too, a few media voices pointed out that Welbeck’s ‘demands’ were not so demanding for a home grown lad who had done the business for his home town club. United have the power to paint a player however they wish to, they also have the power to ignore the subject completely. In Nani’s case, it’s very much on going and if the player comes across negatively in any way, a lot of the blame for that lies squarely with him through his performances and off field situations.
Manchester United pay as much attention to the playing and training aspects of a player, as they do the media and presentation aspects. When a player is under the microscope it’s important that he says the right things; look at Gabriel Heinze when he was leaving United (search the GTS archives), look at Patrice Evra saying he welcomed competition when a rival was signed, or telling us the defence must get better when he was one of the main culprits for why it wasn’t exactly brilliant. Nani needs to stop being ‘reportedly disappointed’ or hurt or angry that he hasn’t got anywhere on a new deal. Manchester United don’t owe him anything. Nani just needs to do the business when called upon and see what’s awaiting in his Carrington pigeonhole when the New Year sales hit.
There needs to be some acceptance that Nani isn’t going to be the next big thing. If United persevere with him he will at times deliver and at times he wont, he is a Manchester United squad player and that’s not to be sniffed at. I would not be surprised if he came to terms on a new deal.
He’s not the new Ronaldo. He’s not the messiah; he’s a very inconsistent boy.
In a bit. GTS