Manchester United winger Nani appears to be edging ever nearer to the Old Trafford exit door. Sir Alex Ferguson highlighted the involvement of the Portuguese in his side’s failure to see out Wednesday’s League Cup tie against Chelsea, and it is the manager that Nani must win over in order to save his United career, if that is indeed his aim.
There appear to be continuing disparities between club and player with regards to the salary that the 25-year-old should be paid, which is seen as the major stumbling block in the signing of a new contract. Nani’s current deal expires in June 2014, which would more than likely mean he would be sold next summer should he fail to agree terms to stay in Manchester. However it is unlikely that Ferguson would sanction the loss of a player he deemed indispensable, which leaves the former Sporting Lisbon man with the task of convincing his manager he is worth retaining.
The forward does possess the quality required at the highest level, but the difficulty for Ferguson has been coaxing a consistently high standard of performance out of a player that he paid in the region of £17m for. Nani’s prominence in the United side grew following the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid in 2009, and he was voted Players’ Player of the Year at the club’s end of season awards for the 2010-11 campaign.
His involvement this season however has been limited amid links with a move to Zenit St Petersburg in the summer, his contract dispute, and a training ground bust-up with highly-rated Italian youngster Davide Petrucci. These events have seen the Portuguese seemingly fall from favour with the manager, shown by his relegation to the status of squad player and his involvement in the League Cup tie at Stamford Bridge ahead of the home clash with Arsenal.
Wednesday’s game was something of a microcosm of Nani’s five years in Manchester, where he has been the subject of frustration from the club’s supporters. There is little doubting the natural ability and technique of the player, but the accusation centres on the lack of consistency, and Nani’s perceived propensity to revert from the sublime to the ridiculous. This was evident at Stamford Bridge, where he showed great composure in dispatching a delicate chip over Petr Cech to put United 3-2 up, yet was guilty of conceding possession under little pressure on a number of occasions, including the fatal mistake at the end of injury time.
The reality is that a player who turns 26 in a couple of week’s time ought to be entering his prime in a side that is full of attacking intent and quality forward players. Nani, however, has slipped down the pecking order this season, mainly thanks to his contract situation. This will not help him if he has the desire to stay at United, as history shows Ferguson is not inclined to rely heavily on players with whom he has any form of dispute.
If the winger can persuade the manager through hard work in training and by taking his opportunities when on the pitch, he might yet be able to save his Old Trafford career. Ferguson however is notoriously steadfast in character, and Nani may well have left himself too much to do to regain his manager’s favour.
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