One of the few positives out of Wednesday’s dull and uninspiring win against West Ham in the FA Cup was that, in Anderson, Wayne Rooney and Nani, Sir Alex Ferguson has now recovered three players that could prove crucial to United’s chances of success this season.
Nani, in particular, is a player that United desperately need to fire on all cylinders from now until the end of the season, for the Portuguese’s ability to turn a game on its head is a commodity too precious to do without when the fixtures pile up thick and fast when even the most straightforward of game can turn into a banana skin, as United experienced last season notably away to Wigan.
Nani, though, looked far from a recovered player on Wednesday night, alternating good touches with more irritant traits of his game – selfish when in possession and overzealously willing to go too ground even with very little contact.
While it would have been unrealistic to expect him to hit the ground running straight away after such a long spell out, he Portuguese divides opinions like very few players do.
Many United fans wouldn’t shed a tear if he was to be shipped out in January, while just as many believe that Nani is the only world class player in United’s ranks, behind a Dutch striker who’s been in rather good form recently.
Sir Alex Ferguson has repeatedly stated that he’s not prepared to part way with the Portuguese in the January transfer window, but United’s pursuit of Wilfried Zaha corroborates the opinion of those that believe Nani’s future lies away from Old Trafford.
Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young, Nani’s main rivals for a starting spot, haven’t enjoyed a great run of form either, with the Ecuadorian a shadow of the player that had developed into arguably the best out and out winger in the league last season, while the former Villa man has suffered another injury just when he was starting to build on some good performances.
With Shinji Kagawa’s potential still largely unfulfilled, Sir Alex Ferguson faces a dilemma – stick with a more traditional 4-4-2 hoping that Nani, Valencia and Young will rediscover their form, or revive the love affair with the diamond-shaped midfield that could make the Japanese flourish?
The question has no right answer, but whichever route Fergie chooses to go down to, it’s likely to determine the outcome of United’s season.