Luis Carlos Almeida da Cunha—known to his adoring fans and detractors alike as Nani—has, over the last 15 months, established himself as one of the best wingers in European football.
Bought from Sporting Lisbon in June of 2007, Nani arrived with a lot of hype and a hefty price tag, and for a number of seasons struggled to establish himself at United as he often found it hard to hold down a position in the team.
With the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer of 2009, United became more team-orientated, and Nani began to play a bigger role in the attack, playing on the left wing while Antonio Valencia played on the right.
Nani showed an improvement in his game in 2009-2010, but was still frustratingly inconsistent. An unfortunate injury to Valencia opened up the right wing position last season, and Nani grabbed it with both hands and made it his own.
He showcased, on a regular basis, the ability he had shown in flashes prior to then. He was arguably the best player in the Premier League from August to February of the 2010-2011 season and has been impressive again this year.
As United looks to continue its success over the coming years, the Portuguese star is sure to play an important role. Nani has scored some spectacular goals during his time at the Old Trafford club, and I thought I'd take a look at them and highlight 10 of the best. Just to note, these are in no particular order.
If you think I've missed out on any that deserve to be included, please feel free to share them in the comments section below.
This was one of Nani's first goals for Manchester United, and it gave a brief glimpse of the potential combination play between the Portuguese star and United talisman Wayne Rooney.
The one-two was brilliantly worked as the United pair cut open the Liverpool defence. Nani's first touch on receiving the ball back from Rooney is what truly makes this goal, though. Taking time to control the ball, he simply passed it through the two Liverpool defenders, ran onto it himself and lashed a wonderful shot past Pepe Reina.
When you watch this goal first there doesn't seem to be much to it other than a well-placed shot.
However, when you see it from the other angles and see the way Nani stood up Ferreira, came inside, used a little burst of pace to get that yard of space he needed and then placed his shot into the Chelsea net from 25 yards out, you can truly appreciate it.
This may very well be his best goal for United.
A slaloming run with a burst of acceleration took past a couple of would-be tacklers and into a little bit of space as Nani drove toward the Middlesbrough goal. Taking only a split second to adjust his sights on the Boro goal, Nani unleashed an unstoppable drive that Mark Schwarzer really had no chance of stopping.
Unlike most Nani goals where he has at least a couple of touches of the ball before scoring, he only needed one here.
Meeting Antonio Valencia's low-drilled cross Nani flicks the ball past the hapless Bayern keeper with his heel. There are two things to watch for in this video from Nani: The first is the finish obviously, but on the replay just watch how perfectly he times his run.
Nani's first competitive goal for United, and what a beauty it was.
Retrieving a half-cleared ball, Nani doesn't mess about with trying to start another United attack. He simply turns, sets his sights on the goal and blasts the ball into the top corner from a full 30 yards.
Football is a very simple game when you the do the simple things right. Nani exemplifies that with this goal. No fancy stuff, no examining the options; he got the ball, he put it in the back of the net and that was that.
I am of course referring to his first goal in the season's Community Shield.
What a team goal that was. United moved the ball beautifully, split the City defence open and Nani applied a beautiful finish to it. There's really not much to say about this goal—you really should just watch it and enjoy.
I've included the highlights of each goal in the game because I felt that after the result from the last time United played City, United fans would probably want to remember a happier result against their neighbours.
At 0:37 of the video you'll find the goal I'm talking about. It's a prime example of a why a defence should never back off Nani.
Picking the ball up in his own half, Nani drives at the Bolton defence, beats three players and leaves another chasing hopelessly behind him. He then slides the perfect shot past the Bolton goalkeeper from the edge of the box. A marvellous solo effort.
An aspect of Nani's game that is often overlooked is his ability from free-kicks. At 0:26 in this video he strikes a beautiful free-kick that gets up and over the Wigan, and follows a picturesque arc to bend into the Wigan net, leaving Chris Kirkland rooted to the spot.
With Young and Rooney at the club Nani doesn't get enough opportunities from free-kicks. I think that's a shame.
At 0:50 of this video you'll find a goal that combines both great team play and fantastic individual ability.
Nani starts the attack, passing it to a teammate (I think it's Darren Fletcher, but I'm not completely sure) who then feeds Wayne Rooney. Rooney plays a perfect first-time pass into the feet of Nani, who has continued his run. The passing in this move is an almost perfect triangle, something straight off the training ground.
From there it's all about Nani; faced with three West Ham defenders, he beats one, shifts the ball into space and finishes beautifully past Rob Green with his left foot.
It was a fantastic goal, and having missed a penalty in United's previous game, it was one Nani badly needed. It was the spark for what would become the season of his career.
This is a two for the price of one deal with the final spot on my list.
In 2008-2009 Manchester United faced Derby County in both the FA Cup and the League Cup, and Nani scored exceptional goals in both games.
They are listed at No. 8 and No. 5 in the video list on this slide. I won't say too much about them—I'll just let you enjoy the two stunning strikes and also apologize for the music in the video.
That completes my list. I hope you've enjoyed it, and I've gotten something close to what those who see Nani week in and week out would have chosen. If I have made any glaring errors and left out a truly special goal please feel free to let me know in the comments. If you could provide footage of the goal it would be even better.
Thanks for reading.