Driving back home after the debacle that occurred on Sunday afternoon, despite not wishing to be reminded of what I’d just witnessed, nor wanting to listen to gleeful ABU presenters dancing on United’s title supposed title grave, I turned on Talksport.
The first caller came up with an idea that at first seemed laughable. “We should play Antonio Valencia at right back when we go to Eastlands”
“No f*cking way! We can’t have our best winger, our most useful attacking force, pushed back into defence, that’s madness” I shouted at my radio as though someone was listening and could actually respond.
The caller began to list the problems he had with trusting Rafael Da Sliva for such a vital game, “he’s gifted but he’s a little bit too erratic, you never know whether he’ll make a mistake or a reckless challenge that could cost us dearly.”
“Mmm” I thought, not a bad point, granted but surely not enough to warrant moving a player who’s been beyond awesome for many months, into defence.
The more I thought about the caller’s suggestion, the more I warmed to the idea, not because I think Rafael isn’t a good player, he is, although I do have my concerns over his temperament and discipline, but also because there’s three wingers at United who all deserve a place in the starting line up.
With Valencia at right back it would allow Nani to play in his favoured position and give Ashley Young a chance to prove all the critics who’ve focused on his fondness for hitting the ground like a sniper victim every time he’s touched, rather than his excellent football skills. Then there’s also Valencia’s ability to get forward from deep and overlap Nani, much as Evra does on the left with Young or whoever. Just because the Ecuadorian would be playing at right back doesn’t mean he’s suddenly robbed of the ability to get forward- or the permission to either.
When it comes to Valencia, the last few games he hasn’t been quite the barnstorming winger he was the previous fifteen or so, as teams have seemed to cotton onto just how vital he is to United’s attacks and focused more effort and players on preventing him from making the amount of runs he usually does. I’m not for one minute saying Valencia’s been poor -he hasn’t- just that he seems to be putting in 6 or 7 out of 10 performances rather than 8 or 9 in the past few games.
Valencia has shown over the past two seasons that he’s more than adept at filling in at right back and there’s little doubt he can cope with anything City have to throw down their left hand side, be it David Silva, Nasri or whoever. With Rafael in the position, I can’t help but worry, that he may do a rash challenge early on and find himself in the referee’s book, whereby he’s suddenly got to watch every single challenge is perfect lest he get himself sent off. I’m not saying the Brazilians dirty, or that he’s always getting himself sent off, just that the way he plays, right on the edge and with such zeal, could leave him open to either being exposed by City’s wingers or punished by Andre Marriner- and not Howard Webb, despite all the rumours.
There are other options at right back of course, United could use Phil Jones there, although Ive yet to be convinced his best position isn’t in midfield and throwing him in against Silva or whoever could be asking too much of a player that sometimes looks a little unsure in defence.
Chris Smalling is another choice but he’s hardly played at all lately and even if he was fit, would it be such a good idea putting him straight into a title decider? Probably not.
With Nani and Valencia down the right and Young and Evra down the left, United have two strong flanks that can handle both the attacking and defending aspects of the game, with the sort of pace and skill that could leave City dumbfounded.
Rafael was caught out a couple of times against Everton and while I think he’s got a great United future ahead of him, I can’t help but think for once a caller I heard on the radio, may just have hit the nail on the head.
Am I wrong? Is Rafael the obvious choice for Eastlands? Is it a waste of Valencia’s considerable talents putting him in defence?
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