Sometimes, all it needs is catching a break – a player, like Phil Jones gets injured, and Nani, almost a forgotten man this season in the Manchester United roster, suddenly seizes the chance to become a vital member of a team gunning for the treble.
It was only the FA Cup, and only Reading, but Nani, after a very long time, looked sharp and decisive during his time on the pitch, coming on for the injured Phil Jones, which shifted Antonio Valencia to right back and gave Nani an opportunity after we thought he wasn’t going to get any to prove that behind all of his fallout with Alex Ferguson this season remains a very talented player.
He didn’t do much, but he was the one to break the deadlock after a horde of chances repelled again and again by Adam Federici between the Reading goalposts. Chicharito, who continues to pile up an impressive portfolio of hair-razing misses before he actually scores one, finished the job. This sets up a meeting with Chelsea in the quarterfinals, with United possibly taking the competition a little bit more seriously this season, with another legendary treble suddenly in sights.
Before the evening in Madrid, in which United put on a defensive show which enabled them to always snatch a win at the Santiago Bernabeu thanks to some solid defending and fine execution of the counter attack, ruined only by missing from comfortable positions from Robin van Persie, I don’t think many viewed United as candidates to win the Champions League. But once you make it out of the knockout stage, and United are now slight favorites to make it, anything can truly happen, even if Bayern Munich and Barcelona are, on paper, better teams.
The biggest thing about United and the road they’ve taken this season is the confidence. The players’ confidence, which wasn’t showing earlier on in the season, but one loss changed everything, and since then it has been impossible to beat the Red Devils or hold on to a lead against them. A lot has been attributed to the ability of Robin van Persie in the league and in Europe, but it’s no longer a secret that Ferguson simply thinks this is the best team he’s ever coached, despite quite a few still claiming this isn’t going to be a very impressive title run.
He’s got great talent and I had a feeling he would win the game for us. You could see he was right on form and he had two great strikes straight away and he was a threat to them the whole night. I think he deserved that. His contribution was terrific. When he came on he had some great strikes. He hit the post, one the goalkeeper saved. In the second half, he scored the opening goal.
Now Nani is on standby. Ferguson thinks about the future and the present all at once. He isn’t looking to take the QPR match lightly, but Real Madrid, obviously, are on his mind. Winning only two Champions League titles is something that he wants to change. Phil Jones is possibly his best formerly secret weapon to eliminate Cristiano Ronaldo. Nani, someone who shouldn’t be a secret to anyone, might be his ace in the hole for the second leg.