Manchester United's victory over Chelsea in Sunday's Barclays Premier League encounter could be seen as significant for a number of reasons, but none more so than for the individual performance of the club's latest Portuguese prodigy, Luis Nani - who is finally showing signs he is ready to step out of Cristiano Ronaldo's Old Trafford shadow.

After improving his game dramatically in the last two years since the departure of his compatriot to Real Madrid, the 24-year-old winger has continued to mature as a player, and is now sending out a message to the footballing world, that he is not only capable of emulating Ronaldo's success, but striving to better it.

Last season, Nani was at the centre of Sir Alex Ferguson's title-winning squad, scoring crucial goals like the one against Manchester City. But his most important contribution in 2010-11 came in the form of his assists, which were the highest in the Barclays Premier League.

Many Red Devils fans still find it perplexing that Nani didn't even make it onto the shortlist for last season's player-of-the-year awards - and the sense of grievance is fully justified, despite having failed to ever fully endear himself to the club's supporters - he certainly isn't regarded as a crowd favourite.

But since he has developed the weaker, and sometimes frustrating parts of his game, that resulted in him being omitted from the UEFA Champions League final team to face Barcelona at Wembley, it is now difficult to think of too many wide players around the world who possess a greater penetrative edge.


 

Yesterday's performance - his 100th league appearance in a United shirt - proved Nani is back with avengeance, after seizing another opportunity to showcase his array of attacking talent. And if his intentions weren't received loud and clear enough - his thunderbolt of a strike to double United's lead mid-way through the first-half, should certainly have helped to send a message.

"I hope this is my year," he said in a recent interview. "Last year was my best year, definitely my most consistent season. This is a big chance to show I can do much more, that I'm a good player with a very strong mentality."

"Hopefully, when I have finished playing football, people will say 'Nani was a fantastic player who won a lot of titles and beat records at the club' or something like that."

His recent showings have meant that the obvious comparisons between himself and Ronaldo have been drawn again, and Nani has expressed his discomfort, despite the Portuguese pair treading a similar path in their rise to fame and form. But, for all their familiarities the bottom line is that Nani has become a formidable player in his own right.
 

Barclays Premier League record [after 100 games]

  Luis Nani C.Ronaldo
Minutes: 6752 6705
Assists: 34 12
Goals: 18 19
TOTAL: 52 31


"For five years, every time the question is the same," he continued. "It's all about Ronaldo. You have to be him. Are you doing the same? Do you think you can do it now?

"Always when I do something good it's the same. When I do okay, it's nothing. When I do something very good, they come with this question about him. But it's okay. It doesn't change anything in me. This is my fifth year here and people know what I can do.

"I know I have the condition to be among the select best players in the world, but I have to work hard and show that. Sometimes that doesn't happen, but what I can promise is that as long as I am a football player, I will do my best to try to get there."

I guess, only time will tell.

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#Football
#Premier League
#Manchester United
#Nani
#Luis Nani