Ask any self-respecting Manchester United supporter to hand you a list of the players they want to see leaving the club for good in the near future, and what you’ll get is likely to be a fairly predictable selection.
There’s cases to be put to Louis van Gaal with regards to the futures of Ashley Young, Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley, Anderson, Marouane Fellaini and Nani.
All six have failed to impress since their respective arrivals at the club, and as has been proved with the exits of Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck, Van Gaal’s revolution won’t be supporting any supposed dead weight.
The first two will perhaps be afforded more time to impress their new manager, particularly as Young was surprisingly effective during pre-season, and Van Gaal is desperately short of central defensive options.
Cleverley looks to have already played his final game for the Red Devils, what with his contract expiring next summer once his season-long loan spell at Aston Villa is complete, and Fellaini may yet be used as a bargaining chip to allow United to entice a player deemed more suitable to the role he has been unable to fulfil since being acquired by David Moyes.
Anderson, like Cleverley, finds himself baggage that Van Gaal appears reluctant to engage with, and the fact that he’s been linked with a shock move to the Indian Super League tells you all you need to know about how dramatically his stock has fallen. That’s five of the aforementioned individuals spoke for, and it leaves just Nani hanging in limbo.
Nani at United
The Portuguese forward has slowly slipped down the pecking order at Old Trafford, with three managers now having tried to edge him out. Although once being considered a winger of immense potential by Sir Alex Ferguson, Nani’s career at United has been on the decline since his move from Sporting Lisbon in 2007.
Rare glimpses in big matches have kept sceptics at bay from time to time, but in general the 27-year-old has been sub-par, inconsistent and unable to hold his own in England’s elite division. During the latter stages of Ferguson’s reign he was used as a bit-part player, often coming on as a sub or getting a starting berth by virtue of injuries to other players.
Under David Moyes he wasn’t so lucky, and the doomed ex-Everton boss deciding early on that Nani’s performances for the former Premier League champions simply didn’t warrant his inclusion in the side. The Portugal international was handed a new five-year deal in September in order to maximise his valuation, and Moyes conspired to sell him in this year’s January transfer window, only for Nani to pick up an injury which prevented him from passing any medical at another club.
Under Van Gaal
Of course ultimately it was Moyes who would be cast from the United fold before Nani, and the era of Van Gaal was ushered in with optimistic dreams of glory and riches, starting with a return to Champions League football at the first time of asking. Though, as was the case with other fringe players, Nani featured often in pre-season, it would seem the Dutch manager came to the conclusion before too long that he would finally offload him.
Speculation was rife that the playmaker would be moving on, with some reports even professing that Arsenal were interested in taking a gamble. In the end though Van Gaal opted for a route which will have certainly surprised some United fans, and Nani was loaned out for the remainder of this year to Sporting, the club where he first made his name. If Van Gaal has any sense, that’s where he’ll stay.
For the majority of the United faithful Nani has been given one chance too many, and a return would only serve to continue to eat up their club’s wage bill - £4.8m to be precise - and give the team one more option that it really can’t be using if it is to compete with the Premier League’s elite.
Though Sir Alex was on occasion able to inspire Nani to play at a level wherein he wasn’t out of sync with the stars around him, it’s been a long, long time since he was the focus of a United outing in a positive light. Now, with the likes of Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata calling Old Trafford home, Nani would be ill-suited for a homecoming.
The player himself admitted only this week that he is unsure of his future as a Red Devil. It would be wise for United to make the situation clear before too long; he’s simply not needed anymore.