Fergie lays down Nani challenge
SIR Alex Ferguson has told wing ace Nani: Show us what you're made of. The demanding United chief has challenged the Portuguese international to maintain his promising early-season form and help soften the blow of losing fellow wide-man Antonio Valencia for what is likely to be the remainder of the season. Nani was in superb form for Portugal on Friday night, scoring twice inside three minute to add to Cristiano Ronaldo's effort in the 3-1 win over Denmark. Sir Alex admits the absence of the former Wigan grafter Valencia who broke his leg in the Champions League clash with Rangers has disrupted his plans for the Reds this season. But he accepts the blow is an opportunity for the rest of United's wingers and Nani in particular to step up. It's a loss to lose any player but Antonio was probably the most improved squad member over the last 12 months, so it was a big blow, said Fergie. The development we saw from when he signed for us to the present day has been amazing. We thought it would take a couple of years for him to reach this level, but he took to the challenge like a duck to water. However, we've got a strong squad and we'll cope. It's up to Nani now to play his part, and he has done superbly this season, so he'll offer us width. Then there's also Gabriel Obertan and the boy Bebe, who's training very well. We're not too bad we've got options. Nani has enjoyed his most consist spell of form as a United player in the opening weeks of the season, scoring twice spectacularly against West Ham and at Bolton. But he knows the likes of youngsters Obertan and fellow Portuguese Bebe, and the more experienced Ji-Sung Park, are eager for their chance. Opportunities for the younger pair especially are more likely to come in the Carling Cup, which Ferguson will continue to use as a testing ground for his fringe men. In the last few years we've done really well in the Carling Cup. But it's not only the fact that we've had success, he said. We've been to Scunthorpe this season and we went to Barnsley last year, and it's in those sorts of environments you learn about your squad. We fielded a lot of young players in the Carling Cup last time out, and they acquitted themselves admirably. The competition has served us well; it allows me to keep everybody happy in terms of giving them games and we've reached the last two finals, which has its obvious advantages. Ferguson is keen to land the trophy again after beating Aston Villa at Wembley last year but acknowledges it isn't always success that provides him with an insight into his young players' make-up. Playing at Wembley and competing on the big stage is terrific for player development. But going out in the early rounds like we did against Coventry and Southend a few years ago are also good experiences. We always prefer to win, but I remember when Coventry came to Old Trafford and beat us in 2007. Our lads simply forgot it was a cup tie and the penalty for a poor performance was getting knocked out. Coventry were very hungry and you have to say they deserved to win. That was a big lesson and it helps us now. How highly do you rate Nani? Have your say.
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