So the gun has fired and Manchester United’s transfer business is well and truly out of the blocks…and like celebrity fan and fastest man on the planet Usain Bolt, United’s activity is racing ahead at gold medal pace with David Gill and a club delegation meeting yesterday with Udinese over the possible transfer of Chilean firecracker Alexis Sanchez.
With Phil Jones and Ashley Young as good as in the bag, the buzz around who United will nab next is like a bumble bee in your ear. It seems to change daily. One day Sanchez loves Man Utd. Next day he wants to stay in Italy. One day Wesley Sneijder is going to California to discuss with his WAG whether she fancies the hot and tropical weather of Manchester. The next day he’s staying at the San Siro. In many ways…..its all very very…………….dull.
But whether all this transfer jamboree turns you on or not it is almost impossible to not have your favourites for Sir Alex to sign, and with Twitter and the like..you are completely unable to avoid the voices of a million paid up members of The Faithful. All of this is totally cool. It’s just opinion. But the debate gets a bit more heated when you start to discuss who Sir Alex might well sell.
Nani has just had the best season of his career. With a good goal tally, and around 200 assists (or something bout that) he truly was the United player who carried the team in the early part of the season. He fed Berbatov like a dog begging for scraps from off the table…finally allowing the Bulgarian to revel in the adulation as the club’s top goalscorer. He made full back after full back look stupid as he would alternate in skinning them down the line, only to next time cut in on his left foot like a dart, and smashing one towards goal like an Exocet missile. He finally showed the promise that we had all been dying for him to show.
So why is he now thought of as a possible outgoing from the club??
As we all know, Nani didn’t have a great end to the season. Many will claim (as I did in true partisan fashion) that his season was ruined by the barbarian that is Jamie Carragher. Yes it was a bad tackle and yes Nani got stretchered off. But he was training and playing only days later…so we will consign that one to football folklore and conveniently remember it as yet another Scouse atrocity and attack on our blessed club. Nani’s form went down the toilet due to one factor. And that is the fitness of Antonio Valencia, who with no thought of what had been going on that season healed his broken bones, stuck two fingers up at his competition, and claimed the right-wing spot for his own…as if he had never been away.
This of course meant that Nani played wide left. “Great” we all though. “Nani AND Valencia! This what we all wanna see. 4-4-2. ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK”
However, Ji Sung Park had something to say about that. And Nani…like Berbatov…found his backside well and truly planted on the bench. The two MUFC players of the season…not able to get hardly a sniff. So much so that in the biggest game of the season at Wembley versus the Mighty Midgets of Dutch Total Football, all Nani could get was a last throw of the dice run out..that ended in Michael Carrick kicking the ball against a backtracking Nani’s shins and it all ending in a sumptuous David Villa curly wurly top corner job. Not really a great way to go on your summer holidays really. But also..no real reason to justify possibly being bombed out of the club either.
Personally, I like Nani. In his early days he used to annoy the hell out of me with his Ronaldo-lite tactics and impressions. He very much was a winner of my ‘Hinderance of the Year’ award..given to the player that would make me swear profanities the most from my Old Trafford seat. (Previous winners have been Keiran Richardson, the young and non-accurate passing Darren Fletcher, and ‘The French Grobbelaar’..Mr Barthez) But one magical day at The Emirates he pulled off an epic trick of all proportions killing two Arsenal defenders and chipped (or miss hit..who cares) the keeper from an acute angle to score a wondrous goal….and in the process filling his tank with liquid nitrogen and sending his career into orbit. Nani had finally arrived.
I think he fully deserved his player of the year award this season..but one fact remains. When Sir Alex needed to find a team to beat Barcelona, dear Luis Nani wasn’t in it. Yes this was a tactical decision. But I think the manager showed his hand as to the players he emotionally relies on to win him the biggest matches. The really top top players – you find a place for them in the starting line up. You find a formation that you can incorporate them in. So as Ferguson believed that Ronaldo wasn’t good enough defensively wide for the Champions League final in Rome…he made sure he played him up front. You have to play your match winners….dont you?
If United somehow overcome the megabucks of Manchester City and the allure of Barcelona for the services of Alexi Sanchez, it creates what we call in the game as ‘the headache all managers love to have’..that being the one of selection when you have a lot of very good players. No doubt with the emergence of Chico, the form of Rooney, and the imminent signing of Ashley Young, United are well stocked in the attacking positions. It is almost guaranteed that Fergie will have to sacrifice one of his big names to incorporate a signing such as Sanchez. Berbatov is an option to be sold, but the thinking man’s money is definitely on Nani as it stands. Berbatov would not raise the funds that United would need to continue spending. Nani on the other hand would. And with Inter, Juve and Madrid all making very positive noises in wanting the player, it is not surprising at all that Sir Alex is looking at attacking options over that of a central midfielder. Without Nani’s assists last year….we win nothing. That would need to be addressed immediately if he was to leave the club.
Trust is a huge thing for Ferguson. I question whether he truly trusts Nani. The manager has sat on his hands and his cash since his last £30 million signing, adding excellent value signings (albeit for big money compared to many club’s budgets) But once in a while he likes to push the boat out. Veron, Ferdinand, Rooney and Berbatov. Huge deals that take your breath away. Sanchez falls into this bracket…as would a Modric or a Sneijder. But the fact remains that whilst squad depth is the key to a successful season, you simply can’t fit a square in to a circle.
And If Sanchez is indeed that circle, the square of Nani may well find himself surplus to requirements.