Nani set for United exit door as Fergie lays down the law
Manchester United winger Nani is planning to leave the club at the end of the season after losing patience with negotiations over a new contract.
The 25-year-old, a £17m buy from Sporting Lisbon in May 2007, is out of contract in June 2014, but attempts to reach an agreement on an extension to that deal have failed to progress, with the two sides understood to be a sizeable distance apart on salary figures.
Although efforts by Zenit St Petersburg to sign Nani during the August transfer window proved unsuccessful, with the player reluctant to make the move to Russia, the Portugal international has now made it clear to Alex Ferguson that he is increasingly unlikely to commit to a new long-term deal at Old Trafford.
Player and manager have since discussed the issue, with Ferguson telling Nani he faces a reduced involvement in the first team if he continues to reject United's contract offer.
Sources close to Nani have insisted that the discussions with Ferguson were amicable and that the winger understands the manager's assertion that he must select players who are part of the club's future plans rather than those who are considering a move elsewhere.
Ferguson's stance was highlighted with Ashley Young being restored to the starting line-up in preference to Nani for the 3-2 win at Chelsea on Sunday following two months out with a knee injury.
With Zenit having recruited forward Hulk from Porto for £32m after missing out on Nani, the prospect of the Russian champions returning for the winger is deemed unlikely. But having told friends that he has grown tired of life at United after arriving as a 20-year-old, Nani is believed to favour a move to Italy, where both Juventus and Inter Milan retain an interest in him, having pursued him in the past.
A return to club football in Portugal has been ruled out, despite the possibility of Nani being offered to Porto by United in exchange for Colombian midfielder James Rodriguez.
Ferguson remains an admirer of Nani's match-winning qualities and is keen to retain his services, but with the contract offer continuing to be ignored by the player, the manager has only selected him to start five of United's 13 games in all competitions this season.
Nani is likely to be involved against Chelsea in tonight's League Cup fourth-round tie at Stamford Bridge instead of being rested ahead of Saturday's crucial Premier League clash with Arsenal. It is another sign of his relegation to the status of squad player.
Ferguson is planning to make wholesale changes from the team that won in controversial circumstances in Sunday's league game against Chelsea.
With Saturday's encounter against Arsenal designated as a 12.45 kick-off, players such as Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans are all expected to miss the trip back down to London this evening.
Anders Lindegaard will replace David de Gea in goal if he proves that he has overcome his recent thumb injury, while Ferguson is also likely to give games to Darren Fletcher, Anderson, Nick Powell and Alex Buttner.
Having been added to the Champions League squad last week, Ireland's Robbie Brady is also expected to feature.
England defender Chris Smalling has an outside chance of playing his first game of the season after being sidelined since mid-July with a broken foot.
Smalling returned to training earlier this month, but has yet to participate in a game at any level, prompting Ferguson to make a late decision on the former Fulham defender's readiness to play.
Should Smalling fail to prove his fitness, Ferguson will almost certainly field a youthful partnership of Michael Keane and Scott Wootton at centre-half. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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