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Nani faces uncertain future at Manchester United

19 January 2009 08:25
The Ecuador international has been on Ferguson's radar for some time following a succession of impressive displays since his move to the JJB Stadium, none more so than his dissection of John O'Shea when the sides met at Old Trafford last week.

With Real Madrid thought to be keen to bring Valencia to Spain as a £15 million alternative to Cristiano Ronaldo, United could even be forced into action as early as this month, despite Ferguson's long-held reluctance to spend big in January.

Valencia would be brought in initially as cover for Ronaldo but could replace him should Madrid eventually land the World Player of the Year. The good relations between Wigan and United would no doubt smooth the passage of any deal.

Ferguson has made bolstering his strength in depth on the wings a priority. Ryan Giggs is now used purely as a central midfielder and is unlikely to play beyond 2010. United signed Serbia international Zoran Tosic, seen as the Welshman's long-term replacement, two weeks ago and could even hand him his debut in Tuesday's Carling Cup semi-final second-leg tie against Derby.

The Old Trafford manager had suggested Tosic would need a minimum of six weeks to adapt to his new surroundings but has been so impressed by his displays in training that he is in contention for a place on the bench at least for Tuesday's game. That will make unpleasant reading for Nani, who has struggled for form and playing time in his second campaign at Old Trafford.

Nani is likely to start against Nigel Clough's side, thanks to Ferguson electing to stick by his plan to give his second string a chance to redeem themselves after their shock 1-0 defeat in the first leg.

Despite a blockbuster start and a 30-yard piledriver against Tottenham to mark his £17 million arrival from Sporting Lisbon, Nani has shown only fleeting glimpses of the talent that earmarked him as Ronaldo's heir-apparent.

Ferguson has often turned to Ji-Sung Park in big games and has occasionally even opted to play Giggs, lacking his former pace, and an out-of-position Darren Fletcher in preference to the Portuguese.

The depth of talent available to Ferguson in attack contrasts starkly with his paucity of options in a defence stricken by an injury crisis. Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Wes Brown remain on the treatment table and Gary Neville will be given the night off, allowing Jonny Evans centre-stage.

The youngster has slotted in seamlessly to United's defence since returning from a loan spell at Sunderland and has earned fulsome praise from his manager. That has inspired Evans to greater heights and he is determined to repay such faith by helping United right the wrongs of a fortnight ago and earn a spot at Wembley on March 1.

He said: "The manager's given some of the players a few days off but not me. It's nice to be in the team and I'm looking forward to the Derby game. I want to get into my first major final."

Source: Telegraph