McManaman: Darwin Nunez can turn into ‘fantastic’ forward with time and patience

Former Liverpool winger Steve McManaman insists allowances have not been made for Darwin Nunez’s introduction to English football and believes his career could follow the trajectory of Mohamed Salah or Kevin De Bruyne.

The Uruguay international will look to end the week on a high against Manchester City at Anfield after scoring a 99th-minute winner against Nottingham Forest and two important goals in the 5-1 Europa League victory over Sparta Prague.

These last few days have showcased the very best of the 24-year-old but he has faced criticism for missing chances, with his performance against Chelsea at the end of January peaking in that regard after he hit the goal frame four times, once from the penalty spot.

Nunez is only in his second season at Anfield and his relatively short career has been nomadic as, after leaving Penarol in Montevideo in 2019, he spent one season at Spanish second-tier side Almeria before moving to Benfica for two years and then switching to Liverpool for a potential £85milllion club-record fee.

He arrived speaking no English and while that has improved, McManaman, who experienced a similar issue learning Spanish when he moved to Real Madrid in 1999, thinks he should be given more leeway.

“He is a young lad learning, he still doesn’t know English fully and that will help when he maintains that level of conversation with his team-mates,” McManaman, now a pundit with TNT Sports, told the PA news agency.

“Because we are English we think everyone should turn up and speak English. It’s ridiculous.

“He has not played a lot of high-profile football. The team before Benfica was a lower league team, then he joined Benfica and a couple of years years later he has joined Liverpool.

“We saw it with De Bruyne at Chelsea, Mo at Chelsea.


“You try to go and live in Uruguay tomorrow and get on with business – it is bloody hard. You need to give them time to settle.

“We need to give him time, definitely, as you cannot judge him over 18 months when he is playing for Liverpool at the very highest level, across world football.

“Good players should improve year-on-year and if that happens he could turn into a fantastic centre-forward.”

Nunez took his goal tally to 16 with his midweek double, only two behind top scorer Salah, and has quietened detractors by hitting his best form at a timely point.

“I think, unfortunately, because of some of his high-profile misses you will have fans shouting at him and singing songs like they did at Forest,” added McManaman, who returned from Spain to play for City in 2003.

“He will miss chances but his recent form: his goal against Brentford (the opener in a 4-1 win) and his goal the other day (against Forest) shows his importance.

“I have every faith in him. I speak to the people at the club who say he works hard and tries to work on his finishing and overall play and hopefully he will get better and better.”

Sunday’s game is another highly anticipated clash between the best two clubs in the Premier League in recent years whose title battles have regularly gone down to the wire, with City pipping their rivals by just a point on two occasions.

However, with almost a quarter of the season remaining, and Arsenal also in the hunt, McManaman does not believe the game will be pivotal in deciding the outcome of the title.

“I don’t think so. City have got Arsenal and Villa but they have got them at home so I fully expect them to win but I don’t think it will be like that season two years ago when they won every single game from January, which was incredible.

“Liverpool have (Manchester) United and Everton coming up so I don’t think it will all ride on this game.

“I don’t think whoever wins wins the league. Maybe it’s not Liverpool-City game but the City-Arsenal game which will knock one of them out.”


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