Apr 28, 2010

The Rise Of Nani | Manchester United

Nani, instrumental in the Reds' win over Tottenham last weekend, has been in tip-top form this term, particularly since the turn of the year.

He's found the net three times in his last two Old Trafford outings, but did you know those goals (one against Tottenham, two against Bayern Munich) were the winger’s first for United since August? Probably not. But it’s precisely because Nani’s all-round contribution was so significant that his lack of goals went largely unnoticed.

The well-held view that he's producing his best form since signing from Sporting Lisbon in 2007 is borne out in the statistics above, which show the impact the winger has had when he's taken to the pitch (and, perhaps more tellingly, when he doesn’t). For instance, United in 2009/10 win more often, score more goals and lose far fewer games when Nani plays. And of the 11 defeats United have suffered this season, only one has come when Nani hasstarted. Even then – away to Bayern Munich – he won the free-kick and whipped in the resulting cross from which Wayne Rooney scored. 

His service from wide areas has improved markedly in 2009/10. In the Premier League alone he has 10 assists to his name, a figure that ignores the part he played in forcing own goals against Arsenal and Portsmouth (two). Add those to the tally and then only Cesc Fabregas and Frank Lampard have created more goals in the league this season.

In Europe, too, Nani was inspirational, playing key roles in goals scored away from home at Besiktas, CSKA Moscow, Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich... and then there was the Bayern brace he bagged at Old Trafford. So, although goals may not have flown from his boots at regular intervals across the season, the sparks certainly have.

Nani, we salute you.

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