Away on international duty, a player gave an interview that many of us thought would spell the end of his career at Old Trafford. Reeling off a list of issues he had with the manager, it was believed the talented but inconsistent player had signed his own death warrant by criticising Sir Alex’s handling of his career as well Fergie’s style of management.
Amidst all of this one of the things that stood out most was his complaint,
“I can have a spectacular game but nobody guarantees me I will be starting the next match. It shatters your confidence.”
Of course by now you will have guessed this player is Nani.
Aged 23 at the time, Nani’s United career was in the balance. Impressive at times but largely frustrating to the point of tears, many thought Sir Alex would cut his losses and and let the winger go. Instead Sir Alex stuck with Nani, giving him a run of games, trusting him and he blossomed.
A match against Wolves in January 2010 was the start of a purple patch for Nani, but that appears to be coming to an end as the old frustrating Nani has started to rear his head again.
This was a spell when Nani was one of, if not our best player in terms of attacking outlets. Able to score as well as create, it was expected he would begin pushing onto the next level, world class, with the upper echelon of players in the game. But instead we find ourselves here, a player that was so poor for the first 45 minutes yesterday that he was hauled off.
So what has changed?
Of course form is temporary and Nani can recover the form he showed during the 10/11 season for example at any moment, but the way things are going it looks unlikely, especially with yesterday’s performance still fresh in mind.
United as a team were awful for the first 45 minutes of the game yesterday, but I struggle to remember a performance as poor as Nani’s. That Bebe performance against Wolves may get a mention, but when you look at the ability Nani possesses and the ability that Bebe possesses you can see why people are so disappointed in Nani.
Look back to the quote from Nani’s 2009 interview, ‘It shatters your confidence.’ And you can see why the problem lies, Nani is and has always been a confidence player. When he is happy and confident he is a wonder to watch, things come naturally and the football flows but as we have seen this week when he isn’t his work looks forced, and even simple things are a struggle.
His missed penalty against Galatasaray will have done nothing to raise his spirits but the manner in which he took it was indicative of where he is right now.
I look at two incidents, both linked, that have contributed to Nani’s ‘fall’.
1. The whole contract/being sold to Zenit situation will have done nothing for his ego. As fans we have no idea of what is going on but I would have thought that a player like Nani is a player we would be looking to keep. Whilst he may be playing poorly now, at his best he is a problem for even the best teams.
Injuries meant his season was disrupted last term but he didn’t do badly and had an impressive summer at the Euros.
Personally off the strength of what we know he can do, I would have thought we would have been looking to wrap up a new deal before the season got underway, instead we were faced with rumours of his departure and with Zenit claiming that his wage demands scuppered a move you gather that United weren’t adverse to selling him.
This leads us to point 2, him being dropped.
With the idea that United were open to selling him probably weighing heavily on his mind, his performance against Everton was another forgettable affair. United crashed to defeat in the opening game of the season and both he and Wayne Rooney came in for heavy criticism for their performances and were subsequently dropped.
He missed the Fulham game and was used as a sub against Southampton before starting in a weakened team against Wigan.
Being dropped will have been a blow especially in light of his apparent new position at the club, and if anything will have let him know that he isn’t indispensable even if he is capable of footballing brilliance.
Playing for Manchester United there is no such thing as an easy game, but perhaps a big performance will help him get back into the swing of things?
He is desperately in need of one and quickly, as he already knowns Sir Alex isn’t above benching him and with his performance yesterday I wouldn’t be shocked to see him sit a game or two out, but perhaps he would be better suited to playing his way out of this rut? A Carling Cup tie against Newcastle followed by a home tie against Tottenham, a side Nani seems to enjoy facing, could help him get his season up and running, some thing that will always be a massive bonus for the side.
Because as we’ve seen previously having a fully firing Nani is always to the detriment of our opposition, and with United looking to make statements not only domestically but in Europe following last season’s disappointments having him happy makes us an altogether more dangerous outfit.