Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera singled out right-back Antonio Valencia for praise in the aftermath of Friday’s 2-0 win over Southampton, calling the Ecuadorian “the best right-back in the world”.
His comments have been taken in jest by most, but here’s why Antonio Valencia is deserving of praise this season.
Unwavering professionalism and consistency after seven years
Antonio Valencia joined Manchester United in 2009 from Wigan Athletic for around £16M. The Ecuadorian international has gone on to make more than 250 appearances for the Red Devils in all competitions, and has still retained his pace and athleticism despite turning 31 now. Every summer, Valencia has returned to the squad for pre-season in top physical condition, and has clearly worked on defensive positioning and decision-making in the last few seasons as his role in the side has changed.
When players have been at a club for such a long time, their form can waver. But with Valencia, his performances have stayed consistent, and his place in the side has only been affected through injury. To have lasted seven years and still be as athletic and pacey is impressive, and answers why Mourinho hasn’t sought out another right-back in the transfer market.
Successful transition from winger to fullback
Valencia joined United as a winger who could burst past his opponent and whip a low fierce cross into the box. He is a direct player who also is happy to track back and help out his fullback, which is where former manager Sir Alex Ferguson got the idea to play him as a makeshift fullback a number of years ago. The South American player has had more than four years as a fullback for Manchester United, and looks assured in the role, hence his selection by new manager Jose Mourinho.
A winger-turned fullback is nothing new in the modern game, but a successful transition is something that Valencia can boast more than others. The 31-year-old is vocal at the back and is seen looking around at all times to concentrate on the opposition. His work rate is among the best in the squad, and he always makes himself available to be an attacking threat. It speaks volumes that Valencia made more touches and dribbles than all but one of the outfield players against Southampton at his advancing age.
As things stand, Antonio Valencia will remain first-choice at right-back due to his bright start to the season, which also sees <a href=”http://www.soccernews.com/bet365″ rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”>Manchester United 11/4 to win the Premier League title</a> . How good is Valencia compared to the best in the world?