Nani stakes claim for Manchester United starting role at Wembley

Nani has promised Sir Alex Ferguson he will deliver if he is handed a starting spot at Wembley tomorrow.

The Portugal winger was king of the assists at Manchester United this season, with his early-season form one of the major reasons why United ended up collecting a record 19th league title.

However, with Antonio Valencia impressing since his return from a broken ankle and Nani's own performances dipping slightly, it has seemed increasingly likely the 24-year-old will miss out on a place in Ferguson's team when they square up to Barcelona in the Champions League final.

It would complete a hat-trick of omissions, given he was also left on the bench in 2008, when he was eventually introduced and scored in the penalty shoot-out, and 2009, when he was left to kick his heels on the bench.

Nani would be disappointed if he suffered that fate again. He believes he is the man to unhinge the Catalan giants.

"I have played against Argentina and Spain and always done well," he said.

"Barcelona's football is the same and the players are the same.

"I like to play against teams who play that way. It is good for me.

"I feel happy because I know when I play against those players, it will go right."

Yet Nani also views Barcelona's star names as the men who set a standard he needs to match.

For so long overshadowed at United by the vast contribution of Portugal team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani has blossomed since the former world player of the year's departure to Real Madrid two years ago.

He is adamant further development is possible though, and watching Lionel Messi at home on TV only fuels his desire to get better.

"When I am at home and watching TV I think about Barcelona's players in a totally different way than if I am playing against them," he said.

"At home, I appreciate the way they play.

"Messi is the best player in the world. I like to see him play and see the things he does. He inspires other players to do different things as well.

"But on the pitch I want to be better than them.

"Every day I am on the training ground I always practice. I want to improve the things I am not good at. I am trying to be mentally stronger.

"I am not perfect but feel with more experience I can contribute more to the team."

That impact may not always be immediately obvious to the watching public.

There are still times when team-mates appear infuriated at a failure to deliver early balls, a key component of Antonio Valencia's game and a reason why the South American may just get the nod from Ferguson for the single winger's slot believed to be up for grabs.

However, his victory in the United players' player of the year poll was confirmation Nani's contribution is recognised in the dressing room.

"That meant a lot to me," said the former Sporting Lisbon star.

"It means the people who work with me know what I am doing every day, during training and matches, and recognise my contribution for the team.

"That makes me happy. It is more important than any trophy from the fans or the league."

Nevertheless, Nani is sweating on his starting spot, with Valencia having the added advantage of being fresh after his lengthy injury lay-off.

"There is no pressure on me," said Nani.

"I know my quality. I know what I have been doing for my team-mates.

"The manager knows what he is doing. I have played every game.

"Antonio is just starting now. He has played a couple of games because I needed a rest.

"Now I am feeling very good so we will let the manager decide.

"Whatever team he picks, I just hope we win."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform