United’s most influential player since the turn of the year has undoubtedly been Ecuadorian wing wizard, Antonio Valencia. The quiet and unassuming flyer has rediscovered the kind of form that we saw before his horrific leg injury suffered against Rangers in September 2010.
In his first season in a United shirt, after signing from Wigan in the summer of 2009, Valencia provided assist after assist for a grateful Wayne Rooney, which in truth ensured that the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo was not detrimental to United’s title hopes. Valencia is fast, powerful and is one of the best crossers of a football in the Premier League. Perhaps more importantly, he is level headed, determined and above all else, an extremely intelligent footballer. He rarely shows any emotion, and when he scores a goal he shows his shy side as he bows his head and jogs back to halfway. Valencia’s brilliant attitude to the game is evident in his adaptability. Due to a horrific run of injuries that saw first choice right backs Rafael da Silva, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones all simltaneously injured, Valencia was asked to play on the right side of defense. Many modern day players with the attacking instincts of Valencia would sulk at being asked to play in defense, but it is a credit to Valencia’s attitude that his performance levels didn’t show a single sign of declining while playing in this unfamiliar position.
His form on the right wing has ensured that the injuries to Ashley Young and Nani have not curtailed United’s title push. In fact, the only problem with Valencia’s red hot form is that Nani plays his best football on the right hand side of midfield and sometimes looks lost on the left. Valencia was United’s official Player of the Month for January with 79% of the vote which was carried out on United’s official website. Two weeks into February, Valencia’s form shows no signs of subsiding with another masterful performance on Saturday against Liverpool. It was Valencia who robbed the inept Jay Spearing of the football 30 yards out from his own goal and laid the ball on a plate for Rooney to score United’s all important second goal.
His link up with Rooney, and Rooney’s promising partnership with young Danny Welbeck has added another dimension to United’s attack in 2012. With the return of the uncomparable Paul Scholes, and Tom Cleverley’s imminent return from injury, United look like a team who are ready to make a serious play for the title with a tough run of games ending last weekend. Valencia could well be the one to take us there.
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