PATIENCE has proved a virtue for Alex Ferguson after Nani’s devastating performances for Manchester United over the past fortnight.
Brought to Old Trafford in 2007 for more money than it took to secure the services of Cristiano Ronaldo from the same Sporting Lisbon source, apart from a few sporadic performances and a couple of eye-catching goals, Nani has failed to convince.
However they have been signs on the last three games that Nani is discovering both form and consistency.
First, Nani ran Hull ragged at Old Trafford. Then he provided the impetus for United’s Carling Cup semi-final triumph over Manchester City.
Those performances were eclipsed by a mesmeric display in the 3-1 win against Arsenal last weekend that will stand comparison with any individual performance in the Premier League this season.
The piece of skill that led to the visitors’ opener would have brought admiring gasps from Ronaldo himself, while Nani was central to Wayne Rooney’s effort shortly afterwards which was very similar to the goal United scored at the other end of the same stadium last season to seal a place in the Champions League final.
While it would be tempting to simply claim Nani has stepped out of Ronaldo’s shadow, Ferguson does not believe that is the case.
“I don’t think he was overshadowed by Ronaldo. It was just a question of maturity,” said Ferguson.
“Nani was young when he came here and he is quite a shy boy.
“Some players can adjust to coming to another country and joining Manchester United very easily.
“In the past, others have taken time. Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic came to us in the January but it was nearly a year before they hit the form we see in them now. Nani is much the same.”
Ferguson added: “He has shown maturity in his last three games, which we always felt was the key.
“The assets have always been there. What we have looked for is the consistency.’’
United’s win over Arsenal, coupled with Chelsea’s surprising failure to beat Hull on Tuesday, means United will leap back into top spot if they overcome crisis club Portsmouth at Old Trafford today.
It would pile the pressure on Chelsea, who meet Arsenal at Stamford Bridge tomorrow.
Given Pompey’s recent results, a home win should be a formality.
But, having watched the south coast outfit at Fulham on Wednesday, Ferguson knows the performances of Avram Grant’s team have been far better than the number of points they have picked up.
“Portsmouth were unlucky,” said the United boss, who could have Vidic back after a recent nerve problem.
“They could have taken something from Wednesday’s game but when you are down it sometimes goes that way.
“But it is kick-on time for us now. It doesn’t matter who it is, we want three points from everyone now.”
- WAYNE ROONEY has won the Barclays player of the month award for January.
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