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Splitting Seams: The Portuguese wingman

908   //    02 Nov 2012, 23:10 IST

Nani has been an embodiment of inconsistency at Old Trafford. He flatters to deceive and the game at the Bridge in the Capital One Cup was such a game, the story of which was the story of his career in Manchester.

Nani, when he came to United from Lisbon in 2007, was proclaimed the new Ronaldo. The young Portuguese with a €25.5 million price tag on his head scored on his debut in pre-season against Guangzhou Pharmaceutical in a 6-0 win for the Reds. On his competitive debut, United won on penalties against Mourinho’s Chelsea in the Community Shield  He scored his first competitive goal for the Reds against Tottenham Hotspurs from 30 yards, a truly remarkable goal that gave the keeper no chance. It was one of the many he would go on to score in the Red of Manchester United. Two assists in a man of the match performance in  February against Arsenal helped United cruise to a 4-0 win against the Gunners. He also was involved in a brawl with William Gallas and was sent off a few weeks later for an headbutt on West Ham player Lucas Neil. He then scored a crucial penalty against Chelsea in the shootouts in the Champions League final in Moscow, as he showed that he was too big a player to succumb to pressure. The litmus test was over, and Louis Nani was ready for the world.

His second season, while not eventful as the first, saw some great as well as disappointing performances from the winger. And then came the spotlights and with them they bought eyes of the whole footballing world. Cristiano Ronaldo had left for Madrid and it was finally time to see whether Nani was ready to step up to the position, even if he did not have the class and flair of his fellow countryman. The world’s weight was on his shoulders in his third season. He got a dislocated shoulder on his first day at work in the Community Shield. He was back in August but a string of poor performances followed. Nani vented his frustration at the gaffer, criticizing him for a lack of confidence. In spite of the outburst, he was given a chance and he took it, providing Rooney with an assist in a 4-0 win against Hull, shining at the Manchester derby, and then netting spectacularly against Arsenal.

But Nani being Nani was sent off after four days for a lunge on Stiliyan Petrov. He scored in 3-2 win against Bayern Munich and ended the season with 7 goals in all competitions as the new Ronaldo title slowly began to wear off.

In his third season, he scored his first ever goal in a Manchester derby, netting one of the two of United goals. However his goal was overshadowed by Wayne Rooney’s stunner which was voted the best goal of the Premier League era. He was included in the PFA Premier league team of the year and was voted the Player’s Player of the year at OT. He had a few bad performances but he came out on to. The fourth season was more of the same.

Wednesday night was also more of the same. Nani struck a beauty, but otherwise was easy to miss. He was caught in possession all too often. Nani’s obsession to beat his man and then take another had cost United the game and Sir Alex wasn’t happy about it. The OT faithful have appreciated Nani’s contributions to the football club, but how long they will tolerate his selfishness, is being tested as I write. Zenit wanted him over the summer for 33 million and Juventus are reportedly trying too. Either way, Nani may have overstayed his welcome at OT. His form this season hasn’t been great and United will be happy to get the cash and splurge it on a new play maker they desperately need.

His services for United are in no way small and United fans will always remember all his wonder-goals and the two he scored in the Community Shield against Manchester City in an awe inspiring comeback, but his days in red are coming to an end.

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