He can light up matches with the drop of a shoulder, a cheeky backheel, a driving run or long-range rocket. His courage to take the ball in tight spaces and faith in his ability never wavers. He believes he can make a difference, and often does. When the Reds lack tempo or struggle to break down stubborn defences, it’s Nani, time and time again, who conjures something out of nothing.
Sure, not every trick comes off and there have been times when he’s shot when he should have passed, or passed when he should have shot. He’s not perfect. But what you always get with Nani is a constant desire to place himself at the centre of United’s play, take responsibility and affect change.
He did exactly that on Monday. Sir Alex’s men lacked inspiration in the first half, but within minutes of his introduction Nani crashed a 20-yard volley against the post and drew a smart save from Royals goalkeeper Adam Federici.
In the second period, he took the game by the scruff of the neck, running at defenders and linking with Antonio Valencia on the right flank before breaking the deadlock with a superb goal from 15 yards. Three minutes later, he whipped over a tantalising cross for Javier Hernandez to nod home at the near post.
It’s no surprise Nani romped to victory in our Man of the Match poll: he was head and shoulders above every other player on the pitch. Now his challenge is to convince Sir Alex he’s worthy of a consistent run in the starting XI. If he does that, Nani may yet play a leading role in United’s charge for three major trophies. Fit and firing on all cylinders, there a few better players in England.