How Nani was more effective than United legends
It's former Manchester United winger Nani's 34th birthday today (Tuesday), and a stat posted by Opta has reminded us just how good the Portuguese winger was during his eight-year spell in the Premier League.
The former Sporting man left United in 2015 after winning four Premier League titles, two League Cups, the Champions League and the Club World Cup, and has since played for Fenerbahce, Valencia, Lazio, Sporting (again) and Orlando City in MLS, where he's currently captain.
Yet, in the five years since his departure, no Red has managed to topple the winger from the summit of a table which ranks our players based on how many minutes, on average, it takes them to register an assist in the Premier League.
Nani set up his team-mates for a goal in the English top-flight on 43 occasions and, while this is fewer than the likes of Ryan Giggs (162), David Beckham (80) and Eric Cantona (51) managed, those players trail behind when it comes to minutes per assist.
Our former no.17 played in a fellow Red to score every 226 minutes - in other words, just over once every two-and-a-half games. That puts him ahead of Cantona (1 per 248 minutes), Beckham (1 per 270), Teddy Sheringham (1 per 272) and Giggs (1 per 287) in Opta's top-five.
43 & 226 - No player to play over 5000 minutes of @premierleague football for @ManUtd averaged an assist as frequently as @luisnani for the Red Devils (one every 226 minutes). Returns. pic.twitter.com/x8oMpythC9— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 17, 2020
It's worth mentioning that this only includes those who have completed more than 5,000 Premier League minutes (around 55 full games) for United. Bruno Fernandes is currently posting a better average than his countryman and former Sporting team-mate, having contributed 10 assists in his 1,755 minutes to date, including for Edinson Cavani at Everton in his last outing.
Nani's most prolific season in terms of assists was 2010/11, when he topped the Premier League charts with 14. Scroll down for three of the best from his time in M16...
OUR THREE FAVOURITE NANI ASSISTS
*Tap or click the headlines to watch...
Dimitar Berbatov v Blackburn (2010) - 0:49 in the video – Berbatov struck five against Rovers in a 7-1 victory and his hat-trick effort was undoubtedly the highlight, with the Bulgarian finishing a team move after starting it in his own half. Nani played an integral role too, though, drawing Lancastrian defenders over to the right side en masse before feinting to shoot and cutting back for Berba to bury it.
Wayne Rooney v Man City (2011) – The Portuguese’s trickster’s cross to Rooney may have taken a slight deflection, but Wazza’s extraordinary finish – and subsequent celebration – ensured Nani had a significant part to play in one of the Premier League’s greatest-ever goals.
Wayne Rooney v Arsenal (2010) – What a counter-attack! Nani was virtually unplayable in this 3-1 win at the Emirates, conjuring the opening goal out of nothing with some fantastic wing play before laying on this effort for Rooney, after the Reds piled forward from an Arsenal corner. The Gunners didn’t know what had hit them!
Happy 34th birthday, Nani!