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Nani may be in the background, but he wants to stay at Manchester United

Manchester United's Nani is challenged by Chelsea's Lampard for the ball during their English FA Cup quarter-final soccer match at Old Trafford in Manchester

Manchester United’s Nani (C) is challenged by Chelsea’s Frank Lampard (L) for the ball during their English FA Cup quarter-final soccer match at Old Trafford in Manchester, northern England, March 10, 2013. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)


On a recent episode of “The Game” (The Times of London’s soccer podcast), writer Oliver Kay noted Nani’s been tearing up Manchester United training. Unfortunately, this is almost all we know about the Portuguese international’s preseason. The 26-year-old didn’t make the Red Devils’ Asian tour (nose surgery), and although he did score twice last week against Crewe Alexandria, a groin problem kept him out of Sunday’s Community Shield. Going from 24 starts in 2011-12 to seven last year, Nani’s Manchester United career appears to be trending in the wrong direction, with that trend fueling a summer’s worth of speculation the attacker could be somewhere else come September.

No surprise, that speculation now seems wrong, with Monday reports hinting Nani wants to both stay and earn a contract extension. And according to reports, manager David Moyes is keen to carve out a spot:

Nani wants to stay at Manchester United, with the 26-year-old keen to sign a new deal to commit his future to the club. David Moyes is also minded to make the winger part of his plans ...

Nani has entered the final two years of his contract and, though the winger’s future has appeared uncertain, with discussions between United and Jorge Mendes, his agent, intermittent after beginning before the end of last season, he wants to stay and fight for a starting place under Moyes.

He certainly has the talent to claim one, but the competition is fierce at Winger FC. First you’ve got the group of wingers-by-trade: Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, and Wilfried Zaha. Then you have the slew of talents that can play wide: Shinji Kagawa, Danny Welbeck, Ryan Giggs, and Wayne Rooney.

Nani may have more talent than any of them, but he’s always been more talented than most of his teammates. Yet in each of the last two seasons, his playing time’s gone down.

With a new manager, does Nani see new hope? Because if he does and he’s committed, there’s no reason he can’t return to his 2010-11 heights: 33 league games; nine goals. Even if he doesn’t see that much time, a dedicated Nani can still be a major weapon in Moyes’ new arsenal.