Nani linked with Manchester United return against Olympiakos...then snapped bowling two hours before kick-off

The United winger has not played for the club since December 7 and has played just six times this season despite signing a five-year contract at the start of the current campaign

Manchester United winger Nani was rumoured to be in for a surprise return ahead of Manchester United crucial Champions League last-16 second leg against Olympiakos, but a picture soon emerged of the Portuguese ten pin bowling just two hours before kick-off at Old Trafford.

Needing to overturn a 2-0 defeat when they travelled to Athens last month, United were up against it in a bid to save their season from a complete collapse. But with Ryan Giggs inspiring a Robin van Persie hat-trick, David Moyes’ side ensured their name will be in the hat for the quarter-final draw on Friday morning.

However, where was Nani? Talk of a return proved false, and he was soon snapped at the All Star Lanes bowling alley in Deansgate at 5.45pm with one lucky fan giving the thumbs up.

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The winger did make it to Old Trafford for the match, where he was seen in complete United tracksuit alongside the ineligible Juan Mata in the Champions Club at half-time.

 

Nani has suffered a major downfall at United from his original promise of being the immediate successor to Cristiano Ronaldo, when the current Ballon d’Or holder completed his £80m move to Real Madrid.

But poor form and a string of injuries have severely hampered his time with the club, and his red card in last season’s Champions League exit to the Spaniards appeared to signal the beginning of the end for the 27-year-old. Somewhat surprisingly, he signed a new five-year contract after Moyes’ arrival at the club, but he has not played since December 7 after suffering a hamstring injury having seen his opportunities before the blow significantly limited.

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Having made just six appearances during Moyes’ tenure, the winger has been hauled off during the match five times, and with other options available out wide in the form of Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and breakthrough talent Adnan Januzaj, Nani has plummeted down the pecking order.

Nani has since become the butt of a joke made by satirical United fanzine Red Issue, with a missing persons poster that read: “MISSING. Have you seen this imposter? Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha (Known locally as the poor man’s Ronaldo). Last seen in December in the Manchester area. Mysteriously disappeared after pocketing a five-year, £30million contract. Not dangerous, can be easily tackled.”

The five-year contract extension was met by United fans with bemusement, given that his old deal was due to expire this summer and he was widely expected to leave the club. However, despite proving largely inconsistent – ranging from the sublime to the farcical – Moyes was said to have been impressed with his demeanour in pre-season, leading to the new bumper contract, but his absence ever since has fans concerned with the decision to tie him down to such a long-term deal.

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