Manchester United Player Focus – Antonio Valencia

16 09 2010

On Tuesday evening Manchester United opened their Champions League campaign with a 0-0 draw against Scottish side Rangers. There were a few talking points, firstly how Coach Sir Alex Ferguson rotated with his squad and made 10 changes to the line-up from the Everton game, bringing up accusations of arrogance and where his priorities lie – with a Premier League clash against rivals Liverpool on Saturday. Secondly how Rangers performed marvellously to frustrate and stifle United with a disciplined defensive performance, which the Red Devils are used to from travelling teams. Questions arose as to how good this squad really is and how they did not have somebody to unlock the tight knitted defence. Unfortunately the headline was not one people will have comfort in seeing.

Luis Antonio Valencia caught his foot in the turf while under-pressure from Kirk Broadfoot and dislocated his ankle, an injury which is likely to rule him out for the remainder of the season. It evokes sour memories for United fans, as only four years ago Alan Smith picked up the same injury when blocking a shot from Liverpool full-back John Arne Riise. The worry is not if he will recovery from the injury physically – thankfully medical advances in football mean the chances are he will recover – it is that recovery from such an injury is fraught with psychological implications. Since his setback Smith has moved on to Newcastle United, but it is fair to say he is not the same player he was pre-misfortune. He is not alone in that.

Valencia Has Made An Impact At Old Trafford

The Ecuadorian midfielder has been a great capture since his £16 million move from Wigan Athletic last July, having to fill the void left behind by Cristiano Ronaldo. He may not have been the fans obvious replacement, with names such as Arjen Robben or Franck Ribery on the tip of the tongue, but his impact was felt. His willingness to help out defensively, his raw pace, great crossing ability and trait of hugging the touchline meant he was a valuable option for the team. His arrival sparked a relationship with forward Wayne Rooney, who in March credited his teammate as a major influence on his terrific season last term. “I couldn’t have scored the amount of goals I have this season without him. He’s been great this year and the quality of balls he puts in the box for me has been unbelievable.”

So far Valencia had not really got into any form at this early stage of the season. Although he scored the opening goal in the Community Shield against Chelsea, the previous three matches he had only made one appearance, in which he was substituted against Fulham. Unfortunately squad depth questions will start to arise. With only Nani, Ryan Giggs and Park-Ji Sung the only recognised first team wingers remaining, perhaps Ferguson might regret letting Tom Cleverley go on loan to Wigan.

If there are any mere consolations to gain from Valencia’s set-back it is that exciting midfielder Gabriel Obertan may get more match time, along with the unknown Bebe. Hopefully unlike Smith, Valencia will return from his injury and remain an important Manchester United player, one who will be sorely missed while he recovers.

As seen on – A Different League

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