When Nani joined Manchester United in the summer of 2007, many viewed this as the signing that would push the Red Devils over the top. Manchester United were coming off a season in which they had won the Premier League, beating runners up Chelsea by 6 points. However, with their previous title occurring in the 2002/2003 season, Sir Alex desperately wanted to strengthen his team for long term success. With one of the world’s best players in Cristiano Ronaldo and England poster boy Wayne Rooney already in the squad, it appeared as though Nani was now perfectly situated to turn those aspirations into a reality.
While the early results for Nani at United were scintillating(19 goals and 33 assists in his first 100 appearances for the club, to tie Ronaldo’s goal total and nearly triple his assist total through his first 100 games with United) things began to go south for the Portuguese winger, culminating in his exclusion from the team in the August 25 home match this year against Fulham, and subsequent departure from the stadium prior to kickoff.
With the impending return of Ashley Young from a knee injury this weekend, new signing Shinji Kagawa starting to better acquaint himself to the English game, and Antonio Valencia willing to accept whatever role he’s given, it appears as though Nani is the odd man out. Additionally, with United having conceded 9 goals through their first 7 games(the most by any team in the top 8 of the table), adding a proven defender is a must; something that would be made easier with the monetary return the departure of Nani would inevitably provide. Although significantly less well known, and lacking the individual skill that makes Nani one of the game’s most dynamic players today, Ashley Young has quietly been a more effective player for Manchester United since arriving from Aston Villa in the summer of 2011.
An in depth review of both players during their time together at Manchester United helps to further illustrate this point.
The data above shows that both players complete their passes about 70% of the time (include’s crosses and set pieces), with Young being slightly more effective at 72.76%. However, their precision in open play rises considerably, as Nani becomes an 80% passer, and Young completes his passes 84% of the time. Nani created 10 assists to Young’s 7,while appearing in 4 more games. It should also be noted that Nani was on the pitch for 539 more minutes than Young during the period from which the sample was taken.
From this data we are able to see that Nani totaled 8 goals, while Young scored 6. However, they were almost identical in terms of minutes per goal, with Young scoring once every 262 minutes. In terms of shooting, Young actually had more shots on target, despite playing considerably less minutes. While Nani attempted 15 more shots than Young, he hit the target only 39% of the time, while Young was accurate on 62% of occasions.
Tackles & Duels
As the above graphic shows, Young won ground 50-50 balls nearly 60% of the time, while Nani won on less than half of his attempts. Both players winning percentage drastically dropped on aerial 50-50 balls, with Nani winning only 29% of his and Young winning 44%; a 19% and 14% drop respectively. In terms of tackling, Young won his tackles 80% of the time, while Nani won his on 73.68% of occasions.
The above graphics help to illustrate that when it comes to the 3 fundamental aspects of the game,(passing, shooting, defending) Ashley Young outperforms Nani. With Young set to make his return to the lineup this weekend when Manchester United host Stoke City, it remains to be seen whether Nani still has a place with the team. While it is not impossible to fathom a scenario in which they co-exist at the club, the best solution for United is to keep Young and allow Nani to seek employment elsewhere.
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.