The Portuguese winger - who joined Manchester United in summer 2007 - showed us all very early his abilities on the pitch with a 30-yard strike to give United their first league victory of the season against Spurs after collecting just two points from three games.
With 42 appearances (15 from the bench) Nani’s style of play slotted in perfectly with the team who, by tradition, like to play football in wide positions where he is most effective.
Collecting a Premier League and a Champions League medal in one of the club’s most successful seasons in their history was always going to be a tough act to follow.
The 2008-2009 season had seen Nani limited to just 31 appearances for United as he failed to reach the high standard he set for himself following marvelous performances the previous season.
Nani’s dip in form was not helped by the resurgence of Ji-Sung Park and of course Cristiano Ronaldo’s ability to play on both wings.
Following the departure of Ronaldo to Real Madrid the talk was of Nani replacing his friend and fellow countryman with whom his is regularly compared with.
Antonio Valencia was brought in to reign on the right wing leaving the predominantly right-footed Nani on the left wing. After a decent start to the 2009-2010 season his form tailed off, and when the January transfer window opened, many expected the no. 17 to be on his way out.
January 16th 2010, not a date that would spring to mind for many United fans but certainly the date Nani turned his career back around against Burnley at Old Trafford.
Nani showed fantastic energy and desire throughout, even forcing a fantastic save from Brian Jensen following an overhead kick. At that point you’re thinking, ‘well done but let’s see if he can keep it up’. That’s exactly what he did the following week against Hull with a man-of-the-match performance only overshadowed by Wayne Rooney’s hat trick. The following Wednesday he devastated the Manchester City defence in the Carling Cup semi-final second leg as United ran out 3-1 winners.
Nani became more and more confident on the ball, his unpredictability was finally working in his favour, his crossing improved and it became clear he was devoting more and more time to improving his weaker left foot.
Deployed on the right wing we have seen the true potential of Nani and that prompted people to give him more credit for the job he was doing on his weaker side.
Nani’s highlights of the latter half of the season have to be his performance against Arsenal, and let’s not forget his two goals against Bayern Munich…including a cheeky back heel.
All eyes were on Nani this season to see if he can keep up his performance levels and so far he has not failed to impress. Just last Saturday against West Ham United Nani opened up his account with a fine left footed strike after cutting in from the right.
Nani will be crucial to Manchester United this season, his turn around in form shows wonderful character and determination, lets not forget his age at just 23 he has the potential and ability to become one of the best in the world in the next couple of years.
The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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