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Decline? Valencia Replacing Ronaldo, Young Replacing…

After losing the last real super star from the Premier League, this country’s press circled like vultures with their predictions of what would come of us. The exit of Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham, Roy Keane, Ruud van Nistelrooy, amongst others, didn’t bring about our decline, but the press were keen to believe that Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure meant that “the decline” had finally begun this time for real.

The idea of “decline” is raised time and again because of Liverpool FC. They dominated English football in the late 70s and throughout the 80s but then fell away once the back pass rule was introduced/Premier League years began. Because they went in to decline, going 21 years now without a league title, the assumption is the same must one day happen to United. Liverpool went in to decline after dominating, so United must too.

Of course, this is flawed logic. Thankfully, as much as reds may grumble on match days, United wielded their marketing muscle, bringing in a global fanbase and the riches that came with it. Liverpool, a far more successful club at the time, missed the boat, and have never caught up.

The introduction of the Glazers has made “a decline” more likely but their presence doesn’t mean we’re certainly doomed to 21+ years of mediocrity.

Regardless, with the £80m transfer money from Ronaldo, the manager went out shopping. Just like Michael Carrick was viewed as a disappointing replacement for Keane, far lower down on the list of options that included the likes of Gattuso, Essien or Ballack, Antonio Valencia was hardly the name on everyone’s lips for the Ronaldo replacement before the deal had been confirmed.

Whilst everyone could see that he, along with Wilson Palacios, was too good for Wigan, there probably weren’t too many United fans who thought he was good enough for our club. The press made lazy comparisons between Ronaldo’s amazing scoring record with Valencia’s. In 89 games with the pie eaters, he had managed just 7 goals, never scoring more than 3 in a season in all competitions. Ouch. Whilst it was clear that we weren’t in the market to find a winger who scored the goals Ronaldo did, mainly because he was The Best Player In The World and often played up front, rather than just on the right, we probably thought we were looking for someone who had shown more promise in front of goal.

Still, we’d seen how Valencia had bombed down our right wing at Old Trafford that season, giving John O’Shea a run for his money, so there was some hope amongst the fanbase. There was nothing but sneers and mockery from the media and rival fans.

At the end of his first season, there wasn’t anyone questioning whether he was a “Manchester United player” or not. You’ll be hard pushed to find many players in Sir Alex’s reign who have had a better début season. Not just fast and keen to take players on, but incredibly strong and useful defensively.

He scored 8 goals and assisted 9 during that season and whilst this wasn’t a replacement for Ronaldo, he helped Rooney become that replacement. The two just seemed to click.

Sadly, Valencia’s second season hasn’t gone as well, only because of the nasty injury he suffered so early on. As he hit the deck against Rangers and was stretchered off, you feared for his season, for his career even. But a few months later, he was back in action, playing well and giving us another option. He came back at a vital time and helped carry us over the finish line for the 19th title.

He didn’t cover himself in glory against Barcelona in the final, I suppose none of our players did, but ahead of kick-off, he was one of the players you knew without any doubt was going to be in the line-up, which is a rarity for any of our midfielders this season.

Can you imagine if in Rome, watching our lads picking up their losers medals, someone told you Ronaldo would be off and Wigan’s Valencia would replace him in our next final in two years time? You’d laugh your arse off. There was no way he was good enough. Shows how much we know.

It looks beyond doubt that Ashley Young will be signing for Manchester United sooner rather than later, and despite him having a bigger name for himself than Valencia did, the general reaction is fairly underwhelming.

In Young’s last four years, he has scored at least 13 goals per season (although some of these are penalties). He had 11 assists this season (only bettered by Fabregas, Drogba and Nani), last season it was 10, the season before that it was 9, and before that, 17. Is that the sign of a player who is failing to reach the standards set in 2008? Or is it a player with bags of ability who has been stuck in an average team?

He isn’t a young lad any more though, turning 26-years-old next month, but that doesn’t mean he has to be the finished article either. Playing with the champions, could that amazing 2007-2008 form be replicated? He’s not short of confidence and with the greatest manager working his magic, could we have someone really special on our hands?

Young wouldn’t be my first choice but he’s not an awful option for us to have. Valencia wasn’t anyone’s first choice either but I imagine he would in the first choice XI for all of us now. If Valencia can step up a gear and make us a better team, there’s no reason why Young can’t too. Watch this space.

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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  1. smartalex says:

    1300 !!!!!!!

    Just kidding, relax. Yes you.


  2. smartalex says:

    Aaah … savour the moment … at last.

  3. Fred says:

    Lady Gaga is the ugliest bitch I’ve ever seen.

  4. smartalex says:

    Yo mama so ugly when they took her to the Beautician it took 10 hours….and that was just for the quote!

  5. Fred says:

    Hearts statement

    The Hearts Board of Directors has issued the following statement in relation to outside influences on players and the club.

    “What’s happening with the club today is not a new thing. For almost 7 years we have been fighting to shield the club from crooks, criminals and thieves. Many of the top players at the club have felt the bitter results of the swindles that have been carried out with them on their own skin. Skacel and Webster have returned to the club after realising where these ‘football patriots’ have led them.

    “Over a short space of time 4 players at our club have been on the wrong end of the law. We note that 3 of them are represented by the same agent – Gary Mackay – who has been so vicious in his attacks against Mr Romanov.

    “Taking into account the facts that have been omitted by the media it can be presumed that each of these cases is not a coincidence, but the result of targeted actions of a mafia that wants to manipulate the club and the results.

    “Every year Hearts fights to be in the top 3, but even last season in the last 12 games of the season it was almost like someone replaced the team with a different one. Whose fault is that? Players? Manager’s? Or it is mafia.

    “Stealing players, bad games, problems with the law – all of that on top of record SFA fines. Problems are just shifted to another level.

    “Mafia are dragging kids into the crime, in order to blackmail and profit on them. It is not possible to separate these people from pedophiles, and you don’t need to do that. Each year we are forced to fight against these maniacs harder and harder. We are standing in their way not letting them manipulate the game of football in the way they want. As such they undermine us in every possible way they can.

    “The task of the club is to tear these kids out of hands of criminals.”

  6. Fred says:

    Explosive stuff. 8O

  7. smartalex says:

    That is very sad and very scary Fred. Wow!

  8. Fred says:

    Darren Ferguson never got a fair shake at this club. Could have been a hell of a player for us. :roll:

  9. Fred says:

    Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together…

  10. smartalex says:

    I said “Be careful his bowtie is really a camera”

  11. Fred says:

    Nice one, smartalex :)

  12. smartalex says:

    Not too shabby yourself Fred!

  13. Fred says:

    Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
    Bears all its sons away;
    They fly forgotten, as a dream
    Dies at the opening day.

  14. smartalex says:

    Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
    You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
    Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
    Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.


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