Manchester United have a long and healthy tradition of fielding pure wingers. In a time when this kind of players is undeservedly neglected by the vast majority of managers, Sir Alex Ferguson still reckons that there is no more exciting individual action in a football pitch than a winger beating his opponent at speed and putting a good cross for a striker to find the net.
Over the last two decades, the likes of Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lee Sharpe or Andréi Kanchelskis made sure the entertainment was guaranteed. In recent years, Antonio Valencia’s old-fashioned style has led him to become indispensable for Manchester United. As wide players are vanishing from nowadays game, Valencia can be seen as a one-off.
Following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Antonio Valencia Mosquera arrived to Old Trafford from Wigan Athletic for £16 million to fill the void left by the Portuguese star. Despite being completely different players, comparisons were inevitable although not fair. Nevertheless, “the quiet man” settled well and quickly became an integral part of the team, playing 49 times and scoring 7 in his first season in Manchester.
Valencia’s second season seemed to be over after a bad ankle injury sustained during a Champions League match against Glasgow Rangers. However, the powerful winger showed his determination and mental strength by coming back at a timely period of the season to help United to win his 19th League +title. His tenacious effort paid off and a champions medal surely made up for so much suffering.
“The quiet man”, who is always happy to run down the right flank, excelled during 2011/12 season earning both the Manchester United fans' and players' Player of the Year Award and the Goal of the Season Award, for his remarkable effort against Blackburn Rovers in the 2-0 win at Ewood Park on 2nd April 2012. Valencia finally received the recognition that he deserved. He also showed his versatility by playing as a right-back when needed.
Against all odds, things have not panned out so well for Valencia this season. In spite of his workethic is as good as ever, he has lost his pace and ability to dribble somehow, making his overall game one-dimensional and more predictable. Valencia has appeared on the scoresheet just once this term and only has 4 assists to his name, contrasting with 4 goals and 13 assists on 2011/12 Premier League.
Every player has ups and downs throughout his career and Valencia is just having an average season by his standards. Nevertheless, bearing in mind how good professional Antonio Valencia is, there is no question he will be able to overcome this situation and be back to his best rather sooner than later.