The Manchester United Fans Who Booed Nani Are Helping Nobody
It's been a frustrating start to the season for Manchester United fans.
The summer transfer business was disappointing. Then there were defeats at Anfield and the Etihad Stadium. The results at Old Trafford under David Moyes have also been poor, with defeat to West Brom and draws against Chelsea and Southampton.
Facing another setback against Stoke on Saturday that frustration boiled over. And it was Portuguese winger Nani who bore the brunt.
Substituted early in the second half, there was an ironic cheer when his number went up. And the cheers turned to boos as he walked off to be replaced by Adnan Januzaj.
It was only a minority and there were suggestions afterward that those involved weren't booing Nani directly but because, with United 2-1 down, he was taking his time to walk off rather than rush toward the touchline.
It still caused a number of problems in the stands. There were reports of heated arguments between groups of supporters: those booing and those not.
It raises the question: Is it ever acceptable to boo your own players?
The ones who vented their fury at Nani will say they're entitled to show their unhappiness because they pay good money to be there. Most fans won't tolerate a lack of effort or blatant diving. But Nani wasn't guilty of either on Saturday.
He had a poor game. It was one of those days when the things he tried didn't come off. Even the best players in the world have them every now and again.
But Nani is an easy target.
He can frustrate even the most patient fans by running into trouble, giving the ball away and hitting the first defender with crosses into the box. His aimless shooting against Stoke didn't help either.
At 26 years old, United fans are still waiting for him to become the consistent threat his talent deserves. But after six years at Old Trafford, some sections of the support saw the new five-year contact he signed this season as a step backward.
Nani looked distraught as he walked off on Saturday. It's a natural reaction to hearing boos from your own fans.
But, should he play any part against Norwich at home in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday, he'll find he gets the biggest cheer of the night when his name is read out.
Football fans have a habit of supporting their players when they're down and this is Nani's lowest moment. A player—especially one like Nani—is no use to a manager with no belief in his own ability.
Sir Alex Ferguson made a point in his most recent book that footballers are far more fragile than they ever used to be. He also said that one of the key questions he asked before signing an attacking player was, "Can he win me a game?"
A confident Nani can. And that is a special talent to have.
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