Any article on Nani inevitably culminates in an unfavourable comparison to Cristiano Ronaldo. It is a testament to Nani’s timely improvement that such a comparison is becoming less clear cut by the day, as the twenty three year old has begun to add a significant number of goals and assists to his skilful dribbling and electric pace. Indeed, Nani’s three league goals – an impressive stand-alone tally – do not tell the whole story of his contribution this term. The Portuguese star sits proudly atop the Premier League assists chart with a very impressive seven, suggesting a decisive involvement in ten of the eighteen goals the Red Devils have notched this term.
In Wednesday’s slender defeat of relative minnows Bursaspor, the involvement of Nani was once again instrumental – the winger’s fine run and goal the one moment of genuine quality in an otherwise limp and insipid performance. Manchester United have been criticised in recent years for relying too heavily on one or two outstanding players. With Rooney ostensibly set to join Ronaldo in seeking pastures new, there would be a certain irony if new-look Manchester United team was to be based around Nani and Dimitar Berbatov, two targets for the ire of ardent supporters just twelve months ago.
The Rooney saga may be destined to be the subject of newspaper headlines for weeks – if not, months – to come, yet one would have to look long and hard to find a more scathing critic of the whole chaotic scenario than the outspoken Blackpool boss Ian Holloway. Holloway, whose previous diatribes have chronicled has incredulity at player wages and a lack of player integrity, sensationally announced yesterday that he has “big problems with the people running football. They are so wrong it’s frightening”. The former Leicester and Q.P.R. manager went on to assert his belief that “the game is in trouble and you cannot have the Bosman ruling they’ve got at the moment”.
He cites Rooney as a pertinent example of the aforementioned problem, hypothesising the following: “What if he sits there for 18 months, throws tantrums, doesn’t try, doesn’t play, and someone’s already said to him, ‘We’ll take you and we’ll pay you some of that money we should have paid Manchester United because you can walk out on a free’?” Holloway’s adherence to his own strict moral code is as commendable as it is rare. Nevertheless, with one fine already paid and another forthcoming for his criticism of refereeing performances this campaign, Holloway may once again find that opening his mouth means his cheque book swiftly follows suit.