A week of Capital One Cup action has brought some object lessons in how not to keep clean sheets. Following Arsenal’s bizarre 7-5 win at Reading came Chelsea’s 5-4 victory over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo responded to the result with the absurd comment, borne of pent-up frustration, that it somehow proved his team had been hard done by when losing 3-2 last Sunday. Whatever the rights and wrongs of that day – and the Clattenburg allegations ensure they will rumble on – that was of no relevance to a different game in a different competition with different line-ups.
The last aspect was of the greatest significance. Manchester United fielded two young and very inexperienced centre backs in Keane and Wootton, with the latter conceding the penalty that gave Chelsea a lifeline with the last kick of the 90 minutes and then producing the poor back-header to send in Sturridge for the fourth goal.
However, the fact that the visitors did not win 3-2 at Stamford Bridge yet again was nothing to do with Roberto Di Matteo’s arguments about past matches. Nor need it have been anything to do with Wootton. Nani could have been the man to secure the win when he had the ball in the corner with seconds left. Rather than running it into a safe area and killing time, he tried to beat his man, lost the ball and the final counter-attack told.
But for this, of course, it would have been a game Nani had won, scoring with a delicious chip after a wonderful one-two on the edge of the box. Those two incidents encapsulate Nani in a nutshell. He can be hugely frustrating and wasteful at times, yet on other occasions utterly brilliant.
The stats always seem to stack up in favour. Goals and assists are never far away when he plays. Yet the Portuguese winger has never quite been taken into the hearts of the fans.
Perhaps this is due to his propensity to fall over a lot. Maybe it is simply because he is the ‘other’ Portuguese winger, i.e. not Cristiano Ronaldo. Yet the only song anyone at Old Trafford sings about him is nothing to do with on-field activities – and best not sung in the company of children.
Time seems to be catching up with Nani. Sir Alex Ferguson’s pointed criticism of the winger hinted at another step towards the exit. So too does the fact that talks on a new contract have stalled and the impasse is apparently more like a crevasse.
One great enigma left Old Trafford in August when Dimitar Berbatov left for Fulham. It looks like another will soon be on his way.