Why it’s time for this Manchester United man to move on:

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Whatever Manchester United’s weaknesses may prove to be this season, their attacking prowess is unlikely to be one of them. Following extensive reinforcements over the summer months, last year’s Premier League runners-up can call upon the likes of Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Antonio Valencia, Shinji Kagawa and Ashley Young to name but a few. Whether Sir Alex Ferguson opts to play a front two, three, four or five, he is presented with a selection headache which is the envy of league managers across the country.

This forward-line dilemma will inevitably lead certain players to begin to question where they fit into the club’s title challenge. Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez may have to settle for long spells waiting in the wings, although their contributions are still likely to be crucial over the course of a thirty-eight game season. One player, however, whose contribution may no longer be required in Manchester at all, is the ever-frustrating Luis Nani.

Now, whilst fans’ memories may have become slightly faded, Nani has had his good times at United. Following Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Real Madrid in 2009, the ex-Lisbon man appeared to be relishing his chance in the first team as he developed a knack of cutting in and beating the keeper from the edge of the area to rack up an impressive goal tally. One criticism of the wide-man had always been the lack of quality in his final ball but he seemingly also put this behind him as he topped the charts for assists not just in England but also in Europe, throughout the 2010-11 season.

During this period, Nani gave that particular United side something which they had been missing: he was lightning quick and he was dynamic; he could fly past a full back with ease; he could create a goal out of nothing. These were all qualities than the club’s other midfielders had failed to display since the £80million transfer of Ronaldo to Spain. There was a time where Nani’s contributions got the team out of more than one or two sticky situations as one of their main creative forces.

It was here, however, that the consistency issues that have blighted his career in England came back to haunt the 25-year-old. Having won over a significant portion of the Manchester United faithful (there were always those who unfairly compared him to Ronaldo), Nani regressed into the exasperating, wasteful, bit-part player that he had threatened to be upon first joining the club. Crosses which crashed into the first man more often than not, ignorant dribbles that saw him run into trouble and wild long-range efforts all became regular features of his game.

This has been the case – on and off – up until the current campaign. The start of this season has perhaps seen the very worst of the Portuguese man, with the vast majority of the club’s supporters becoming more and more agitated with his erratic performances. His lacklustre showing against Liverpool led more than one tabloid paper to label him with a three out of ten in their post-match ratings. Now, as these ratings go, a five is generally a pretty good indicator that a player has had a terrible game. A three is almost unprecedented and suggests with little subtlety that Nani had embarrassed himself with his Anfield performance.

Injuries to both Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia have seen him handed a second chance, but it won’t be long before both of these players return to fitness and Nani finds himself sidelined. It is well-known that Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala have joined the race to land the winger’s signature, with Juventus also heavily tipped as favourites. United would be likely to fetch a reasonable price if they were to sell in January and you would be hard-pressed to find a fan at present who feels that he would be missed.

Luis Nani has had his moments in a red shirt – that much is not in doubt. The question lies in whether he is still of any value to a side that possesses attacking options in many different forms. The general consensus – inside and outside of Manchester – appears to be that his time has come.


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