Contract talks for Portuguese winger Nani, who has 18 months left on his current deal, were expected to be wrapped up by the beginning of the season, but they are still ongoing.
In the midst of new speculation that Nani could be on his way to Arsenal, Sir Alex reassured fans that he is staying put, telling ManUtd.Com:
“We need a Nani. He offers something different from the other players. He’s an incredible talent, the boy’s a great talent”.
Sir Alex is not completely convincing though. A case could be made that the club needed his creativity last year, but not now. The signing of playmaker Shinji Kagawa, the improvement of Tom Cleverley and the addition of Robin Van Persie – who has 6 assists to his name as well as his league leading 14 goals – has made sure of that.
Nani is a player who blows hot and cold, brilliant one day and frustrating another, and his inconsistency has surely been noted by the manager. Man Utd have a myriad of attacking options at their disposal: Valencia and Young as orthodox wingers, and Sir Alex isn’t afraid to station strikers Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck on the flanks as well. The reality is that Nani’s absence this season – he’s started only four league games due to a hamstring injury – has not been felt, as the team enter the New Year in first place.
On top of this, we’ve been here before. Remember Berbatov? The Bulgarian was as technically gifted as anyone, but was arguably even more frustrating that Nani in his three years at the club. He received similar reassurances about his future; in January he told The Sun, “last summer I was told by United that they need me – and that was good enough for me”.
Last year he gushed to MUTV about Sir Alex’s man management:
“The way he treats players is unbelievable. Even when not playing or you’re injured, he’s still speaking with you and encouraging. He makes you feel special and lets you know your place in the team”
No doubt Ferguson is making Nani feel special right now. But he is ruthless when he decides a player is surplus to requirements, regardless of how long they’ve played for the club. Just ask Ji-sung Park for example.
Man Utd cannot afford luxury players adding to the wage bill, especially in the light of the enforcement of the Financial Fair Play.
Time will tell if there still is a place in the crowded Manchester United attack for the winger, or if Sir Alex was just paying lip service.
Words By Oswin