The talented Ecuadorian was treated as something of an enigma by Manchester United fans following his arrival. The £80 million sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid left a massive void at Old Trafford. With this sale it was believed that Nani would finally receive some game time to prove his undoubted ability. Sir Alex Ferguson decided to bring in Antonio Valencia from Wigan Athletic for a relatively expensive £16 million. In all honesty I would have to say Wigan were never going to be the first team I would choose to watch. Hence I probably missed just how good a player this lad actually is.
The Ronaldo comparisons are ridiculous given the fact they are two completely different players. Both have played wide right for Manchester United, but their skills are markedly dissimilar. Cristiano Ronaldo is a luxury player of the highest quality. Despite Wayne Rooney’s majestic form for United and Lionel Messi’s 8 goals in 3 games for Barcelona. I still think the Portuguese master is the best all round player in the world. Explosive pace, fantastic dribbling skills, Free kicks and his aerial game is second to none. With Antonio Valencia, Manchester United have a different prospect.
Valencia does ‘exactly what it says on the tin.’ He is a winger and contributes what wingers are supposed to do. He picks up the ball, beats his man, and then crosses. Simple, yet devastatingly effective. What helps his cause significantly is he is probably the quickest footballer in the Premier League. It’s like watching Aaron Lennon but fast forwarded. I can imagine Fergie finds him a dream to manage as he fits much more tightly into a tactical system he may employ. Ronaldo leaving United was a big loss, but Wayne Rooney’s rise to prominence has been helped by the diminutive winger.
With Rooney playing as a striker, Manchester United’s game has evolved from ‘get the ball to Ronaldo’ to a more evenly based distribution. Yes arguments can be made that if you simply take the word Ronaldo out of the phrase and replace it with Rooney it could still ring true. I tend to not agree with this. He is by far and away United’s best player but the goals he is scoring are not in the Ronaldo styled conjured up from nothing. How many headed goals have we seen from Rooney this season? A hell of a lot, rarely do we see the piledrivers and 25 yard volleys of old. His game is based now in and around the box. The more creative work is coming from the width and Valencia has been instrumental in this area.
The Ecuadorian is enjoying a magical first season at Old Trafford; his importance to the team has been highlighted by his man of the match performance in the League Cup final and setting up one of Wayne Rooney goals off the bench in the San Siro against Milan. Clearly Valencia doesn’t shy away from the big games. He recently told the Sun ‘I’m enjoying my best moments as a pro. I always dreamed of being at a big club and to win titles. Now I can fulfil those dreams at United. I’m here because of Mr Ferguson. The coach insisted he wanted me and that came as a surprise to me.’
Sir Alex uses Antonio Valencia cleverly by not starting the speedster at appropriate times. Despite Valencia’s obvious talent, he can be twice as effective coming off the bench. His raw pace can destroy tiring legs in the last 30 minutes of a game. As I’m sure Milan can tell you. I think Fergie has made one of the signings of the season in Antonio Valencia. Now all we need to do is find him an English aunt.
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