Date: 28th June 2011 at 10:45am
Written by:
Nani goal

Is Mr Da Cunha capable of occupying a central role?

Some things in life are just impossible to predict- the English weather, how many minutes away from relegation Wigan will be at the end of the season, what accent will the latest star of Coronation Street be using.

Arguably the most difficult thing to predict is the form of a certain Luis Carlos Almeida Da Cunha, or Nani as he likes to be known.

Without a doubt one of the most exciting yet frustrating players I’ve ever seen in my 20 odd years of following United.

One minute Nani can be going past defenders with aplomb and sending an unstoppable shot into the back of the net, the next he’s turning himself inside out rolling around on the floor or knocking the overprice meat and potato pie out of someone’s hand in the third tier.

There’s a strong case to be made that Nani is actually United’s most naturally gifted player, yet there’s also one to be argued that with everyone fully he’s not even worthy of a starting place. It’s all a bit bizarre how such a gifted individual is still not guaranteed a starting place and even has some fans unconvinced of his worth to the Red cause.

I’m in the school of thought that Nani should start every game. even with Antonio Valencia fully fit, the arrival of Ashley Young and the temperament and energy of Ji Sung Park, I firmly believe you need the Portuguese winger in the side.

I understand that Nani can be annoyingly greedy, that he often shoots over 350 times a game without troubling the keeper, that at times he seems to be putting in a bid for an Academy Award -or at least a Bafta, with his theatrics, but there’s simply no denying that despite his faults, he is a match winner.

Park may graft like no one else, Valencia may be the best crosser and Young may have a proven Premier League pedigree but none of them are capable of getting hold of the ball and making something out of nothing quite as well as Nani is.

The question is who do you drop at Nani’s expense? Has Sir Alex spent £16 million on Young just for him to keep Michael Owen warm on the bench? I doubt it. Can United really afford to leave out a player like Valencia who seems to bring out the best in Wayne Rooney and has the pace and strength of a Grand National winner? Probably not. Then there’s the big game player that is Mr Park. Dropping Park is arguably the most likely option -unless its a big game, but that still leaves no room for Nani.

With Young and Valencia on the wings Nani would seemingly be relegated to a substitute role, unless of course Ferguson moved him to a more central role.

“But wait! Nani’s always been winger!” I hear you cry, “how can we move him into the middle?”

Well thanks for asking, allow me to elucidate my hypothesis. Nani has shown time and time again, thatr despite his ability for using both feet, when it comes to his left he much prefers shooting with it than he does  crossing -although I now you could argue he prefers shooting to crossing with any foot but I’m sure you get my point.

If Nani was deployed in the centre of the park, he could still run at defenders, he could still latch onto through balls like he did last season, from a similar position- Bolton away, City at home, yet he’d also have the wide man as an option to lay the ball off to.

The other argument would be that in Wayne Rooney, United already have an attacking player that can occupy the role just behind the striker. I’m not disputing this what I’m suggesting is that United employ a formation that can accomodate both.

By having say Chicharito up top then Rooney and Nani behind him with Darren Fletcher, Park, Anderson, or Michael Carrick, in front of the back four, then Young  and Valencia on the wings United may well be able to have their cake and eat it.

I know that may seem a little gung-ho having five attacking players in the same line-up, not to mention the fact you’d also miss out on playing a certain Mr Ryan Giggs but let me ask you this, is the suggested line up all that different from what we saw at times last season?  Carrick and Giggs with Rooney off Chicharito and Park and Valencia out wide was used on several occasions. Admittedly Park does a lot more grafting than Nani ever would but then again Nani’s more likely to put teams on the backfoot. giving United a ‘attack is the best form of defence’ type edge.

This is all conjecture of course, the whole experiment could be a disaster of epic proportion leading all sorts of catasrophies and the imminent disbanding of the club. Or would it? Why not give it a try against City in the charity, sorry Community Shield? If it doesnt work its not the end of the world and if it does, then maybe we can unleash it again against West Brom and really take the season by storm.

Have I gone in off the deep end or is there a small island of sense in my ocean of dribble? Feel free to comment suggest and abuse below.



13 responses to “Is It Time To Give United’s Livewire Star A More Central Role?”

  1. reyals says:

    You’ve gone off the deep.

    But recognising you have a problem is part of the solution.

  2. OMG says:

    I agree with with you to a certain extend. IMO Valencia has been overrated since he came back from injury. He’s crosses has been wayward and defenders know 99% he has to cross with his right foot, which makes him easier to defend. Until Valencia gets back his form of old, I think nani should start at RM which is his preferred position!

    • Rocket says:

      I agree with OMG re: Valencia…even last season he didn’t score after what…December? Ok yes, he assisted but I think he was extremely predictable in his movement and teams were able to mark him easily unless he was up against a slug of a left back.

      God, it’s hard not to cringe sometimes when Nani shoots and you see Rooney or Berbatov (who?) or whoever yell at him for being wasteful or not seeing someone else was in better position to shoot.

      So what am I saying? That Nani in the middle sounds like an interesting experiment. Hell, remember when he played all the way up front against Bayern?

  3. Patrick says:

    I tend to agree somewhat with OMG in that Valencia wasn’t quite the same player that we had before but he was still only just back from injury…I think Nani could do very well in a central role given his two-footedness so a 4-1-4-1 formation might actually work…with Rooney a little more withdrawn and pulling the strings (ha also puts in a shift defence-wise) it is a feasible option…so a small island in your ‘dribble’ (or maybe you meant drivel?) 😉

  4. Eddy says:

    There is some good degree of sense in your article. If we fail to get either of Wesley, Modric, Nasri, Sanchez and Thiago, we may have to try this option. Nani would be unpredictable in the middle hence difficult to mark. This will necessitate acquiring a strong, no nonsense defensive midfielder to protect our defense. Anybody with such a midfielder in mind? Besides, how strong is this rumour about Thiago? It sounds interesting as Fabregas seems to be set to join Barca. Keep writing.

  5. bruce thomas says:

    …just a thought

    De Gea

    Rafael Rio Vidic Evra


    Valencia Nani Rooney Young


  6. Oskar says:

    May I suggest another option that may seem equally strange to some.
    Valencia at right back (wing back) with Nani in front of him!
    Evra at left back with Young in front of him.
    Raphael and Fabio dropping into all four positions when needed (attacking and defensive).
    Rooney in the attacking midfield role.
    Thus Jones might occasionally fill a defensive midfield roll depending upon the opposition.
    This would give Nani and Young options to float and swap wings.

  7. Afzal Jkhan says:

    Nani is by far a better player than Valencia and the only reason Fergie prefers Valencia is because Nani is too greedy and wasteful. For the same reasons he will never fit in central midfield. He will drive everybody crazy by going for goal himself. The day he realises that football is a team game coupled with his enormous natural skills he’ll become one of the best players around.

  8. jonathan says:

    I’ve been thinking the same thing for awhile. Someone as talented as Nani can typically play in several positions. He certainly has all the technical ability to play in the middle and could create space better than virtually anyone else.

    For it to work, he would have to be less selfish; but hopefully the reward of being the main chanel of the attack is compensation. He would also lose the luxury of doing prolonged tricks as he’s afforded to when near the touchline. Again, hopefully the glory of doing a single move which completely opens the attack provides him the same satisfaction.

    Like you said, it’s theoretical; but it’s not outlandish as he has all the tools to pull it off. Whether he’s given the chance or could swallow his pride a little to make it work is another matter.

  9. Peter says:

    Some fairly harsh comments here about Valencia, I thought he was quality on his return from injury. Also rate Nani highly and think he should play in the team regularly. Like the idea of playing him in a central position if no attacking midfielder in purchased but surely this only a plan B and far less attractive than buying a dedicated central player.

  10. N33 says:

    FINALLY someone agrees Valencia isn’t the god who came back from injury and saved us! Yes he scored two goals , one which was a gift from nani going round the keeper, and yes he did well as a right back but for god sakes is everyone watching the same games I was?? His crosses RARELY went where they were supposed to! He had a nice pass to giggs that lead to a goal but other than that his Wing play wasn’t good ! Hopefully a great Pre season will see him back to his best , something which he hasn’t been since his injury!