Few players polarize opinion more than Luis Nani. Some believe the winger is one of the most talented in Europe and others believe he is a waste of space and too inconsistent.
While the truth may lie somewhere in the middle, the past few weeks have seen the Portuguese international encounter something of a revival.
Nani’s card seemed marked from the moment he gave the ball away in United’s thrilling defeat to Chelsea in October with the wideman giving the ball away deep into added time, with Chelsea running the length of the pitch before equalising. Sir Alex Ferguson singled Nani out post match and was seen mouthing “f**king Nani.”
However, Nani has vowed that he wants to show Ferguson and United just what he is worth to the team and has the desire to keep working at it.
He said: “I want to show the manager that he can trust me and he can believe in me in every match.
“I want to show him my contribution can help win games. So I’ll keep working hard to make sure I’m ready to respond every time I get a chance.”
The former Sporting Lisbon man was a transfer target for Zenit St Petersburg in the summer before his sky-high wage demands scuppered any possible deal and, with Nani’s contract expiring next summer, a move away could materialise. However, in recent weeks, the 26-year-old has forced his way back into contention.
Three starts in the last four games demonstrate progress in what has been a frustrating, inconsistent campaign disrupted by injury. One of the aforementioned starts was a surprise inclusion against Real Madrid in the Champions League where Nani was one of United’s best performers prior to a poor refereeing decision ended his night.
It is highly likely that Sir Alex Ferguson will use the burning sense of injustice experienced by his side as fuel to propel the club to the title and hopefully an F.A Cup. With Antonio Valencia going nowhere quickly and Ashley Young a perennial injury victim, Nani will be key to securing silverware.
“Now my confidence is high and I think the best is still to come from me,” said Nani. “This is my time and I think I can be important for the team in these big games.
“Because I was injured for two months, I’m fresh now when some other players are starting to get tired.
“I feel I’m in good form and I’ve nearly arrived at my peak. I think over the next few games I can surprise a few people.”
Despite playing with renewed vigour in recent weeks, Nani is still yet to sign a new deal with the club. Reports have suggested that the player and his representatives are looking for an improvement on his current £90,000 salary with the media suggesting that £130,000 is what Nani’s camp are looking for, in order to bring him in line with the club’s top earners.
If the 26-year-old can find some consistency for the remainder of the campaign, then it is hard to imagine Nani not getting a new deal. On his day, he is one of the best in the world and has that match-winning quality and unpredictability few possess.