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Why Antonio Valencia could play an important role under Jose Mourinho at Manchester United

Jose Mourinho at a Chelsea press conference

Various reports are suggesting incoming manager Jose Mourinho will look to axe Antonio Valencia among others this summer, but such claims might be premature when considering how his strengths match the demands Mourinho has of his places.

The Ecuadorian international boasts high levels of industry and physical strength that may see him staying at Old Trafford past the summer.

Frequently puts the ball into dangerous areas

Antonio Valencia’s biggest strength is undoubtedly how often he whips the ball into the danger zones in games. His crosses don’t always amount to created chances, but he gives his side the best chance of conjuring a goal by testing the opposition backline as much as possible. 2014/15 saw Valencia put in 120 crosses into the box.

If United have a target man to find in the area, such distribution could amount to a lot of goals. Valencia does contribute to the score tally too, scoring and creating 23 goals in his last two seasons under Sir Alex Ferguson. Mourinho likes to balance his side with substance to the style and Valencia is all substance on the pitch. It’s hard to see how he won’t be given a chance to impress as a result.

Mourinho loves wingers happy to do their defensive duties

Valencia has just 12 months left on his deal, and as things stand it’s unlikely the Red Devils will be rushing to renew his contract. However, that doesn’t mean he won’t prove useful for Mourinho next season with how well he plays his role out wide. The 30-year-old is a throwback to the wingers of the past, taking on his opposite marker at any given opportunity before whipping a low cross into the box.

He’s played a lot of games at right-back in recent seasons and it’s certainly improved his defensive attributes. Mourinho loves hard-working wide men who can play box-to-box, doubling up on the opposing winger to eliminate any threat out wide. Valencia certainly fits the bill, and could be utilised for man-marking jobs in the big games.

Valencia’s physical superiority too good to waste

Jose Mourinho also loves strong players who win their duels on the pitch. Valencia is certainly of that ilk, boasting a 75% tackle success rate despite an injury-hit season. In 2014/15, the South American winger was winning 84% of his duels, and even when operating in an advanced role, his natural inclination to work hard subsequently saw him make over 70 tackles in a league season.

He’s also become more of a threat in the air, winning 70% of his aerial duels, which is a considerable improvement from past years. Mourinho has a very powerful player on his hands who can not only create chances for his teammates, but deliver solid defensive performances to grind out results. Reports have suggested the two may part company, but the incoming manager should be licking his lips at the prospect of training Valencia.

A player who keeps himself in peak condition, while being disciplined in training to adhere to any manager instruction, is a dream for any coach. Valencia might yet force his way into the Manchester United side next season.

Wed 25 May, 2016
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