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Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson praises Nani

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson
Ferguson's side are now within a point of leaders Chelsea

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes Nani is finally starting to realise his potential after his display in the 3-1 win at Arsenal.

The 23-year-old Portugal winger, who reportedly criticised Ferguson's management earlier this season, set up two goals in an impressive performance.

"Maturity is why we're seeing the best of him now," said Ferguson.

"His last three games have been absolutely first class but today was his best."

Signed from Sporting Lisbon in the summer of 2007, Nani has taken some time to settle in at Old Trafford.

It seemed his future at the club could have been in doubt after he made only two appearances between the start of November and the end of 2009.

But Nani has started four of United's last five matches and Ferguson believes his character is transforming as well as his form.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty

"He's a very shy boy and maybe his personality is getting stronger to play for us every week. Today was an example of that maturity," said the Scot.

Ferguson believes his side's ability on the break proved crucial in exposing Arsenal's weaknesses.

Park Ji-Sung and Wayne Rooney both scored from slick passing raids that caught the Gunners short in defence.

"Counter-attack has always been a part of our game," stated Ferguson.

"Arsenal play a lot of good football and get to the edge of the box regularly, so if you can get the ball you've got a chance against them."

Manchester United's Nani
Nani's pace tormented Arsenal left-back Gael Clichy

Rooney's strike took his tally to seven from United's last five matches and it also means he has scored 100 Premier League goals - only the 18th player to do so.

The England international is five goals clear at the top of the Premier League scoring charts, having already amassed more than last season's top scorer Nicolas Anelka managed in the whole of that campaign.

"Rooney was the key player in the sense they just couldn't handle him," added Ferguson.

"Everything was played towards him, in front of him or behind them and he was on to it every time."

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger preferred to focus on his own side's shortcomings.

The Gunners were unbeaten in their 10 previous league games but Sunday's result leaves them five points off leaders Chelsea, having played a game more.


"We gave them too much room. We were naive. It is difficult to say straight after the game why we were not at our level," said Wenger.

"It is too early to analyse but I believe there are some mental reasons.

"It is a massive blow and a massive disappointment. The players wanted to win, they are really down. We have to recover from that. That is part of top-level football."

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see also
Arsenal 1-3 Man Utd
31 Jan 10 |  Premier League
Sunday football as it happened
31 Jan 10 |  Football
Man Utd 'will never sell Rooney'
31 Jan 10 |  Man Utd
Rooney carrying Man Utd - Shearer
25 Jan 10 |  Man Utd
Arsenal 1-3 Man Utd (agg 1-4)
05 May 09 |  Europe
Nani completes medical at Man Utd
06 Jun 07 |  Man Utd

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