Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha kept his side in the title race last Saturday with a sublime finish to put Manchester United in the lead just as Tottenham Hotspur were threatening to take a point away from Old Trafford. Luis who some may ask? We are talking about the much more familiar Nani by his original name of course. Yes, the 23 year old winger whose career was heading into a cul de sac until he turned it around at the beginning of this year.
Nani has recently been showing that he’s found his form and grown in maturity. The winger who was rumoured to be on his way out not so long ago has started to find himself in the starting line up. Quick, skillful and bold is the approach that makes him so exciting to watch with a new found confidence to take on defenders and using his trickery to get past them.
The Portugal international would previously find himself in situations where he could pass the ball but would rather take a wild shot ending up in bitter disappointment and frustration. Nowadays he has been servicing the likes of Rooney, Berbatov and company while scoring some goals of his own.
Sir Alex Ferguson brought Nani to Old Trafford from Sporting Lisbon for £14million in 2007 but he was a rough diamond and was always overshadowed by fellow Portugese star Cristiano Ronaldo. At the beginning of this season Nani was low on confidence with his performances adding to the speculation that he was on his way out, but in early December Nani started proving himself and began gaining his old self belief. Ferguson gave him more first team opportunities and he grabbed them with both hands.
Some players rely heavily on confidence in themselves as Nani does. It allows him to express himself and it’s what you see when he does his step overs, runs past defenders down the wing, puts in killer crosses, create chances and at times successfully taking his own.
It’s all a result of inbuilt confidence because he is not a very technical player like Giggs or Scholes, Nani relies on his individual artistry. His recent performances against Bayern Munich and Spurs have been outstanding and could be pivotal in the title race. He will now have to continue with his contributions as United have two more vital matches left, away at Sunderland and Stoke at Old Trafford.
He will be hoping for some help from Liverpool on Sunday because if Chelsea fails to win its own remaining games United could be in with a chance of grabbing a fourth consecutive title.
Nani will also be looking to impress at this years World Cup in South Africa. Portugal are drawn in what is expected to be a tough group with Brazil, Ivory Coast and North Korea.
With a huge Portuguese population in many African countries, massive crowds are expected at all their games. Thousands of fans will be hoping to see Ronaldo in action but it could end up being Nani who will end up overshadowing his former Manchester United team mate.
Can Nani yet develop into another Ronaldo at United?