Valencia’s time to shine

August 14, 2010 Tags: Reads 33 comments

Antonio Valencia’s bright performance against Ashley Cole last Sunday bodes well not only for the winger’s future but Manchester United too. Indeed, Valencia’s continued progression over the course of last season has catapulted the 25-year-old from Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow to one of United’s most important attacking players.

Confidence, ever a fragile component of professional footballers, flowed through Valencia – affectionately known as Toño – at Wembley, aided in no small way by Cole’s predilection for offering the £16 million signing from Wigan Athletic time and space on United’s right flank. Even so the Chelsea man is arguably one of the world’s finest defensive left-backs and Valencia will take much from giving the former Arsenal man such a torrid time.

Although Valencia’s performances for United were consistent throughout last season, the player visibly grew in confidence as the campaign wore on, even if the goals dried up. Toño scored seven in all competitions last season, all before Christmas, before succumbing to a late season ankle injury that required an operation over the summer break.

Seven may have been a career best total for Valencia but, of course, it compares poorly to Ronaldo’s ability to hit the net even when deployed in wide areas. But the Lago Agrio-born winger’s goal at Wembley last weekend, coming shortly before half-time following Wayne Rooney’s outstanding work on the right, will certainly provide an additional incentive if any is needed for Valencia to spend more time in central areas this season.

Not that Valencia has ever promoted the comparison but if the Ecuadorian can take a leaf out of Ronaldo’s book and find the net more often, he becomes critical to removing the goalscoring burden from Rooney’s shoulders and therefore de-risking United’s strategy this season. No easy task of course but Valencia’s power, pace and shooting ability should enable the former Villareal player to reach double figures.

If confidence is the key to both improved performances and – hopefully – greater goalscoring feats, then it is hardly the natural state of being for Valencia, whose unassuming nature is the polar opposite of his predecessor on United’s right flank. More from the Paul Scholes school than Ronaldo’s, Valencia’s desire to shy away from the spotlight is, therefore, both a blessing and a curse.

That the player arrived at Carrington for his first day of training in a three-year-old BMW in a car park full of supercars says much about Valencia’s character. On the pitch though the coming season is one where Valencia could trade in his Volkswagen image – reliable, a good runner, keeps on going – for something closer to the thoroughbreds inhabiting his teammates garages.

It’s not solely the player’s individual performances that are crucial – Valencia has a critical role to play in Sir Alex Ferguson’s favoured 4-3-3 system, especially away from home, this season. The winger’s ability to work more effectively in more central areas is crucial to United becoming less predictable. After all, with little to no attacking creativity set to come from central midfield this season, United’s wide players will play a critical role in success or failure this season.

If there is a criticism of Valencia then it is his tendency to play too wide, marginalising Rooney and enabling defenders to channel the winger into blind alleys. After all, predictability is the downfall of even the quickest of wide men.

Not that Valencia will have it all his own way this season. In addition to Nani – whose improvement in the late winter months owed much to a switch to United’s right – Gabriel Obertan, Park Ji-Sung and new signing Bébé will provide competition for the right-sided berth in whatever tactical formation Ferguson deploys this season.

For the time being the man in possession will certainly start against Newcastle United on Monday night. “Enjoy, it, enjoy Manchester. Do things well,” said Ferguson on Valencia’s arrival at the club.

The player is certainly doing that.


Juanjo - August 14, 2010 Reply

Great piece, man. I think you’ve captured Toño pretty well.

I do agree with the fact that Valencia needs to be more aggressive, more daring. I thought last season was remarkable, given the context, and thought he consistently gave us 6-6.5 point performances. This season is more about trying to go for a 7 or an 8.

One thing I don’t understand about Ferguson is how he refuses to have him switch with whoever is on the left. Toño can do it without problems (he does it regularly on the Ecuadorian national team, most famously in a qualifier a few years ago against Argentina). If needed, he can also play the holding midfield role, given his natural defensive abilities. I thought the best part of his performance at Wembley was how he gave nothing to Ashley Cole on the offensive end, almost bullying him out of the ball a couple of times.

I also agree he has to avoid staying too close to the sideline, like he did a few times last season. It just makes it easier to defend him (especially when teams figured out they had to double-team him). At Wembley he was better at getting into the box when the team was coming with numbers, letting O’Shea take the flank. And he was also good at dropping back to the middle to have a chance at getting the ball.

About his competition on the right flank, I agree, it’s Nani, who played really well in most of the games when he was deployed there. I think by now we now that Park can’t really hold on to a flank (his best position is that advance midfielder role behind the striker, in the 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation), and Obertan is still raw. I actually think that Cleverly could provide more stiffer competition. I really liked what he did when playing wide in the preseason games.

I’m really looking forward to the partnership between Wayne, Chicharito and Toño. I think Wayne and Toño have a natural understanding that has nothing to do with language, while Chicharito and Toño have already shown that bond in the limited time they’ve played together (two games, two goals for Chicharito from two assists from Toño). I also think having Chicharito there will be great for Toño, since he will have another native Spanish speaker to talk to and joke around in practice.

Can’t wait for Monday.

Tommo - August 15, 2010 Reply

Well done Pal. Top Class analyisis. Valencia for player of the year.

RobDiablo - August 14, 2010 Reply

Nice article. I, too, expect to see further improvement in Valencia’s game as well as an increase in his contribution to United’s goals total. I don’t see Park Ji-Sung providing much competition for his place in the starting eleven, however, as Park usually plays on the left when deployed as a winger – thankfully, something we are seeing less and less of these days. Unless he’s meant to mark the opposition right wing out of play, Park is useless as a left wing – the death of any attacking effort down that side. It seems he is too easily pushed over; the opposing winger or right-back just knock him down and take the ball. Put Park in midfield, however, and he is a different animal; I like to see him in the center as much as I hate to see him on the left.

kramer - August 14, 2010 Reply

nice article. i was happy with valencia’s performances last season. very solid, gets the job done, doesn’t fuck up and seems to have a very level head and a ridiculous engine. i’d like him to add a couple of new dimensions to his attacking play, but he’s doing well for now.

agree with rob as well, park is and has always been a central player. never understood why fergie keeps playing him on the wing.

matt - August 14, 2010 Reply

calling it a 4-3-3 is pretty revisionist if you ask me. it was a 4-5-1 if there ever was one. but that’s about the only qualm i have w/ this writeup. nice work.

i think park is more than decent as a defensive winger…him and evra shut down the entire side of the pitch when they roll out together.

RobDiablo - August 14, 2010 Reply

One other thing you might have mentioned in praise of Valencia: he does defend. Seems to be pretty good at it, too.

Don Pablo - August 14, 2010 Reply

As Juanjo correctly points out, the most impressive aspect of Valencia’s display against Chelsea was his defensive display. I was thinking he could be used as the attacking midfielder in a 451 just behind the stiker with Nani permanently taking up the right midfield slot. Nani’s first time crossing from the right is superb and Tony V can offer speed, strength and shooting ability from the center. His mobility will allow him to drop to defend when we loose the ball as well as push up when counter attacking. The left wing should be a battle between Clever Tom/Obertan and hopefully Bebe. But bottomline is Antonio will be a very crucial player for us this season.

Alfonso Bedoya - August 14, 2010 Reply

I wish he’d smile more… or at least give the impression that he’s not totally pissed off playing for United.

danniitronix - August 14, 2010 Reply

the key for me is his crossing. all i want him to do is cross well, that is all. if he can consistently beat the first man with a forward cross no some backward triangular pass, then the rest will fall into place. once ronaldo got that right, he moved in field developed his shot, his heading and the rest was history.

cantilever_moaner - August 14, 2010 Reply

All I want is for Tonio
– smile more
– develop a left foot
– don’t miss one on ones with Blackburn goalkeepers which cost us a win and the league

uncleknobheadforfucksake - August 14, 2010 Reply

still don’t really see it, he’s not xfactory enough to be a proper utd winger, he’s too mechanical, he’s like a quicker shitter version of what becks was, except becks was the best in the world at what he did, whereas bellendcias just a normal prem player

sidney - August 14, 2010 Reply

Aye, you know what you’re gonna get with him. He’s consistent as fuck, always beating his man and putting balls in

This season he needs to develop other parts of his game – shoot more and score more and generally do more good things going forward

Stretford Dave - August 14, 2010 Reply

“bellendcias”? What kind of shit is that? I think Valencia is excellent, his unassuming personality is what it is and fans don’t take to “shy” players like they do to mouthy or cocky one’s – have Scholesy or Giggs ever had their song as loudly or often sung as say Cantona or Keane did? No. That doesn’t make them any less players. He reminds me of Steve Coppell or even Kanchelskis, yes he could definately do with netting a few more of his own goals but, boy does he get down that wing & set them up & lets never forget that wing play is an exciting form of the game which United have probably the biggest tradition of in the country/world. One Love

matt - August 14, 2010 Reply

@rip bri and gary coleman

completely disagree. the guy’s only 23 or 24 i think, he shits on ashley cole everytime he plays him and he does the same to most everyone else. he gets by the first man and puts in a good cross. consistency wise i can’t name a winger who does that better in the prem. the only winger better than him in our league might be malouda…other than that he tops everyone else

sheesh - August 15, 2010 Reply

danniitronix said:
the key for me is his crossing. all i want him to do is cross well, that is all. if he can consistently beat the first man with a forward cross no some backward triangular pass, then the rest will fall into place. once ronaldo got that right, he moved in field developed his shot, his heading and the rest was history.

I think he’s a good player. He just needs to be a bit more consistent (like you say) with his crosses.

TGR - August 15, 2010 Reply

Unregistered User said:
@rip bri and gary coleman

completely disagree. the guy’s only 23 or 24 i think, he shits on ashley cole everytime he plays him and he does the same to most everyone else. he gets by the first man and puts in a good cross. consistency wise i can’t name a winger who does that better in the prem. the only winger better than him in our league might be malouda…other than that he tops everyone else

He’s 25

Alfonso Bedoya - August 15, 2010 Reply

TGR said:
He’s 25


The tall, skinny, pedantic sarsaparilla strikes again…

kramer - August 15, 2010 Reply

his crossing is clearly decent. how many times has he put the ball on a plate for rooney? not his fault that the rest of our forwards couldn’t score a header to save their lives.

TGR - August 15, 2010 Reply

The only shame with Valencia is that he is incapable of playing anywhere else. SAF has a big decision to make regarding the right wing position, because Nani is far more effective on that side – and has far more strings to his bow than Valencia has. He just doesn’t look the same player on the left. Key to United’s season is getting the best out of both players, which is going to be difficult given that they both excel in the same position. He’s going to have to make a decision as to who is the best long term prospect for United, and good as Valencia is, I think that has to be Nani.

cantilever_moaner - August 15, 2010 Reply

He does have touch of the Stevie Coppell about him but Stevie used to bang in some important goals, certainly one at an icy Maine Road springs to mind

Ed - August 15, 2010 Reply

Valencia frequently played in central midfield for Wigan and for Ecuador. Not sure its the answer to our problems in the attacking/creative midfield role but Ferguson has spoken about this in the past. Really depends on the progress of Obertan and Bebe this season.

cantilever_moaner - August 15, 2010 Reply

Hmmm if he’s played on the right of a midfield 3 with Nani ahead of him on the right, could be interesting….

Pikey McScum - August 15, 2010 Reply

I agree with the Galwegian’s sentiment, but don’t think it’s going to happen.

Valencia is a right-winger, end of; Ferguson sees Nani as a more adaptable player and will probably stay on the left. Unless Valencia’s form dips, but let’s hope not – I do think this could be a huge year for him.

Before he fucks off to Spain…

madmax - August 16, 2010 Reply

Think he is just a stock winger. A much improved and pacy version of Park. He lacks creativity. He plays as if he is programmed without any footballing intelligence. Very very limited but consistent. We could do with some one better than him in the wing.

captainhormone - August 16, 2010 Reply

Valencia will be a really important cog for us this season

madmax - August 16, 2010 Reply

He definitely is. But he is not as great as we are making him out to be. When things are not working out properly, he goes missing. But we can expect Nani or Rooney to atleast try something different.

kramer - August 16, 2010 Reply

yeah madmax, but you can’t have a team of 11 rooneys or 11 nanis. he was probably our best player and only threat at anfield last season which was a truly abysmal performance, and he plays well generally in the big games. also, this has been only his first season, i think you’re being harsh on him.

uncleknobheadforfucksake - August 16, 2010 Reply

you can’t have eleven rooneys or nanis but if there’s poitionss you wanna be packed with rooneys or nanis its in the wide and forward positions, even obertan has shown more potential to be that sort than him

captainhormone - August 16, 2010 Reply

i think he’s got potential to be very very good….not ronaldo class, but i cant see why he cant get to near beckham levels…for a start he is quicker and will score more goals in the long run…but cant pass like beckham or cross like him

but in the sum of all parts, he can get somewhere nearer to beckham than ronaldo


Spike - August 16, 2010 Reply

He’s a Genius in the making.

Pikey McScum - August 16, 2010 Reply

Anyone else thing Ferguson is trying to form a new Jackson 5?

Nani, Valencia, Fabio and Rafael, and now our very own Tito – Bebe!

cantilever_moaner - August 16, 2010 Reply

Thought Tony was poor tonight, a one rick pony who was quickly sussed out. He ended up passing backwards – we were 2-0 up at home, you cock !

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