Ferguson praises super Nani
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson thinks he has another Portuguese great on his hands in Nani.
Ferguson freely admits Cristiano Ronaldo was a "once-in-a-lifetime" player, who will go down in the history books for his phenomenal 42-goal contribution to United’s 2008 Champions League-winning season.
However, since his fellow countryman left for Real Madrid 12 months later, Nani has stepped out of the shadows and become United’s main man.
He may still frustrate by holding on to the ball too long but he is also capable of bewitching skill that opponents struggle to contain.
The 24-year-old scored his 10th goal of the season in last weekend’s Manchester derby win at Old Trafford and Ferguson is expecting much more from the former Sporting Lisbon star.
"Ronaldo was exceptional," reflected Ferguson. "He is a one-in-a-lifetime player.
"But it did take him time to settle and develop in the English game. If anything, Nani has done it a bit quicker.
"I don’t need to trumpet his improvement. He has been consistent all season.
"He is a match-winner who creates goals and he scores them. He had seven strikes against City and that is a high ratio for a winger, particularly in a big game.
"He is showing maturity now. Every time he gets near the box you think something is going to happen. When you get that, you have a great player."
Yet, as Ferguson pointed out at the time, Nani’s latest effort, whilst exceptional in its own right, will never be recalled because of the brilliance of what followed.
The debate over Wayne Rooney’s overhead kick has continued all week, with some pundits arguing it was the best goal ever scored at Old Trafford.
Ferguson has his own take on that one.
"It was the most unexpected goal ever," he said.
"Nobody expected him to elevate himself in that fashion and deliver a shot with that ferocity.
"There have been plenty of overhead kicks over the years. We have almost forgotten about Dimitar Berbatov’s against Liverpool earlier this season.
"But with Wayne’s, it was the surprise of it."
Although Ferguson did not go as far as to say he was about to take Rooney off last Saturday, he did confirm he was preparing to introduce Michael Owen, whose groin injury is not as serious as it was first feared.
"I was warming Michael up to go for it but I was trying to work out what the best way of doing it was."
Neither Owen, nor, in all probability, Rooney will be involved in tomorrow’s FA Cup fifth-round tie with Crawley.
Any involvement for Ryan Giggs may be limited to the substitutes’ bench as well given United head to France next week for their Champions League duel with Marseille.
Nevertheless, Giggs will head across the Channel with a one-year contract extension in his pocket, and more warm words from Ferguson for a man who now seems to be setting fresh landmarks by the week.
"You run out of words to describe Ryan Giggs," said Sir Alex Ferguson.
"He is a marvellous player and a wonderful man. To have the desire and the ability to play at the top level in such a physically demanding position at his age requires a special person.
"He is still turning in man-of-the-match performances and his experience is so vital for the younger players in the squad."
Ferguson has pledged to play a similar-strength side to the one he used at Southampton in the previous round tomorrow, which points towards the introduction of Gabriel Obertan and Bebe.
Anders Lindegaard is set to make his home debut, whilst Wes Brown and John O’Shea could also be used in a defence lacking injured duo Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans.
Javier Hernandez will occupy one of the starting berths, even though Ferguson considers the Mexican to be a better substitute at present.
"That is possibly true at this moment in time," said Ferguson.
"Javier’s training performances have improved tremendously in the last couple of months. His work-rate and practice ethic have been very good.
"He comes in early and stays behind. He has done very well in that sense and is improving all the time.
"He is a great impact player."