Nani heads for exit from Old Trafford

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The Independent Football

Manchester United's Portuguese winger Nani is resigned to leaving Old Trafford, with his representatives seeking clubs in Italy and Spain to rebuild his career from next month.

United made it clear they have called time on the 23-year-old's efforts to establish himself at Old Trafford when they offered him plus £10m to Benfica as part of a proposed deal to bring the prodigious Angel di Maria to Manchester earlier this month.

Nani, who was given a run of games in the side at the start of the season after Cristiano Ronaldo went to Real Madrid, had been disinclined to leave the club in a World Cup season, believing that he has more chance of establishing himself in Carlos Queiroz's plans with Champions League football. Though he would be cup-tied if he left, the player seems to have accepted his future lies elsewhere.

He has not played for United in the Premier League since the 2-0 win over Blackburn Rovers on 31 October and has managed only one goal for the club all season. Though there would be plenty of takers in his native Portugal, the Lisbon-born player is understood to be reluctant about such a prospect, preferring the higher profile he would find elsewhere in Europe.

The future of the player, signed for £14m from Sporting Lisbon, has been uncertain since last spring, when he was substituted at half-time against Tottenham and left Old Trafford early. At that stage of the season, he had been substituted on each of six league starts and never made it beyond 70 minutes. Nani later insisted he wanted to stay and fight for his future at United but the departure of Ronaldo, his closest friend at the club, has removed another reason to stay and stake his claim.

The failure of the Serb Zoran Tosic to fulfil the potential United saw in him makes United's need for a left-sided midfielder all the greater. But they face a battle to persuade Benfica to release Di Maria.

The club, who rejected United's initial offer, have as yet refused to entertain the idea of a pre-contract agreement for the winger in the hope that his performances in next year's World Cup for Argentina will trigger an auction.

Only a huge offer would be enough to draw the player away any sooner as the €14m (£12.3m) release clause in the player's contract does not come into play until the summer.

Nani said in an interview with Portuguese journalists earlier this year that he did not understand why he had such a bad press in England. His United career started promisingly. He scored a spectacular 30-yard winner against Tottenham at the start of last season before setting up the goals which enabled United to shade 1-0 wins against Sunderland and Everton and scoring against Liverpool. But the promise has not been fulfilled.

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