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Is Valencia The Answer To Our Midfield Problem?

The press lazily claimed Antonio Valencia was our replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo when he joined in the summer of 2009. Having scored just a handful of goals over a couple of seasons, the media and rival fans scoffed at the idea of Sir Alex Ferguson believing this relative nobody from Wigan was going to replace the Best Player In The World (TM) who had been our top scorer for the past three years running.

In reality, he had been bought as a right winger, with the idea that Wayne Rooney would take up the burden of scoring our goals. Valencia was there to fulfil the traditional roles for his position of scoring a few, assisting more. In his first season that’s exactly how it worked out. He scored 7 goals in all competitions and assisted 9. He effortlessly made the step up to showing he was a player of United quality and settled in to our style of play immediately.

His second season was more or less over just a few weeks in after he broke his ankle against Rangers. He came back in to the team ahead of schedule in March though and hit good form pretty much instantly. He managed to force Nani, who was voted our Players’ Player of the Season out of the Champions League final team.

However, after picking up another injury on International duty this summer he missed out on the pre-season and lost his place in the team again. Ashley Young and Nani have both made great starts to the season and there wasn’t much opportunity for Valencia to try to prove his worth.

Luckily for him, United suffered a whole host of injuries at the back, with our first choice and cover for right-back missing. This allowed Valencia to have a go and for the most part he’s done well. His performance against Norwich was one to forget but generally I like the attacking threat he poses at right back, whilst still being solid enough defensively.

With Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling and Rio Ferdinand likely to return to fitness after the International break, Valencia will lose his place at right back. So, where does this leave him?

“There’s a natural instinct in him to help out and defend,” said Ferguson. “Of course, we know all about Antonio’s qualities as an attacker, but he’s so quick and so powerful that he’s also suited to a full-back role. He’s incredibly difficult to beat if you’re trying to get around him. We also see him as an option in the centre of midfield. He’s very disciplined and able to carry out any instruction we give him.”

I’d never really considered Valencia as a central player, despite his appearances there for his country, although hearing the manager mention it got me thinking. The guy is nails and I would love to see him getting stuck in all game. Can you imagine how much fun it would be seeing other team’s hardest players bouncing off him when they went in to make a challenge?

Rio Ferdinand spoke about Valencia on Twitter last season after seeing him “throw weights around” in the gym, insisting that he was the strongest winger in the league. Remember when running at speed against Everton last season he shrugged Leighton Baines off like he was an U-15? Tough players like him, who are also skilful, are a dying breed. Would it be worth a go? Would Valencia be up for it?

“I’ve played at right-back a few times and I’ve enjoyed the position,” he told United’s official Spanish website. “I respect regular players in that position as they pick up quite a few knocks. But I have also played back on the wing this season and I’m happy anywhere on the field. I hope to be ready and to play well when the boss calls me.”

I’d personally prefer us see Jones in the centre of the park, even just as a trial run, because of the qualities he could bring to the position. Bryan Robson played in the centre of defence at West Brom before making the move to midfield and you could easily imagine Jones doing the same. Despite our young defender’s claims that his preference is defence, if Rio and Vidic are both fit, you would imagine they would get the starting positions and he would be keen to play anywhere. It would be good for him to have experience of playing elsewhere and if he pulls it off, we finally have the player we’ve been waiting for since Keano left six years ago.

Whilst we are still having injury problems at the back though, maybe Valencia is worth a punt for midfield. His pace may be wasted here and he may be out of his depth in the centre of the park after spending so much time on the right, whether as a winger or a full-back, but without sounding too negtive, it’s not as if what we already have in place is so special it isn’t worth trying someone else out. Anderson and Cleverley made a great start to the season but our Brazilian has struggled to make the same impression when playing alongside Carrick and Fletcher, who have both failed to set the world alight when given their chance.

Valencia in midfield? Go on Fergie, give it a go.

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. parryheid says:

    One year ago when he had an unchallenged run of games as Tony V was injured Nani was lauded on here as world class.As soon as Tony returned from injury our two footed player was dispossessed and struggled further infield.As Denton Davey a couple of posts up said SAF decides and he is usually right.I concur with that,I recognize Nani’s qualities and also his frailties.Also one year ago in fact less Hernandez was getting the same world class status and yet this year he is not firing but I think that is just a blip and he will come again, think some posters on here should give Tony V the same courtesy.

  2. King Eric says:

    Parryheid. Absolute nonsense mate. Nani is world class. Why do you think he is triple marked? Like watching gibson. Fuck me. That’s the most silly thing I have read on here for time. Nani is different class and can win games single handedly.

  3. WillieRedNut says:

    Close I said. He ain’t there yet. Tony v has been lauded on here. Nani on current form though, is tough to shift. I never described Hernandez as world class. Top finisher like, but still to improve on other parts of his game. People say to me, but Valencia got the nod ahead of Nani at Wembley? How did that turn out? Having grafters is all well and good. Barcelona have taken the game to new lengths. We need players who can do something different. Players that are comfortable on the ball. Cleverley is that type of player. Nani is as well. Not saying if Nani had started the game, we’d of beat Barcelona. They played out their skin. Valencia will be an important player for us. The boss is trying some things with him. He’s done ok at RB, considering it isn’t his natural position. Who knows, maybe a stint in CM?

  4. fergie is the boss says:

    King Eric – fantastic news on cleverly, I maybe wrong but he can be the next xavi if he keeps improving. Great on the ball, never wastes a ball and always looking to play PPL in

  5. King Eric says:

    Nani is consistent as fuck the last eighteen months. He has it all. Pace. Tricks. Both footed. Tracks back. Scores goals and creates shit loads of assists. I love Tony but Nani is on a whole different level. A match winner. I remember watching motd after rentboys game and at one point there were FOUR defenders tracking him. How the fuck can he be compared to Gibson? Fuck me. He rarely underperforms these days. If we hadn’t seen Ronnie in his pomp Nani would be appreciated much more by some doubters. I pay eight hundred and seventeen quid a year and am glad I have the pleasure of watching him grace OT. Best winger in Europe at present. Defenders don’t know how to deal with him. He can get to byline and put a ball on a sixpence or cut in and hit a thunderous shot into the top corner. He is a top lad too. Very humble an quiet but a real joker. As I say I love Valencia but at present Nani is in a different league.

  6. King Eric says:

    Fitb. Hello mate. I agree. There is no bigger fan of Tom than me. He has got it all.

  7. fergie is the boss says:

    jayKay – no way in hell is berbatov the answer, when PPL say well scholes went from a striker into a CM, scholes was not even 20 and he hardly played as a striker for much of his career maybe a season or 2. But berbs as not got the energy or the discipline to play the CM role, lets not do another alan smith

  8. WillieRedNut says:

    The thing with Nani too, defenders can’t push him onto his weaker foot. He doesn’t have a weak foot. He can kill you with either foot. Class act. I”m just a humble mutha fooker with a big ass opinion!

  9. RedScot says:

    we need a a hoppie right

  10. Sparkz says:

    Agreed, Valencia is a class player, but Nani is on another planet. Along with Rooney, he’s the player who strikes fear into the opposition- as some have said- triple marked. Can go both ways, which is a friggin nightmare for defenders.

    Last season, a couple of things happened. The Carragher tackle knocked him a bit…but more than that, Valencia’s return pushed him out onto the left flank. It’s because he’s the more versatile of the 2 that he got shifted, as Valencia can’t really play anywhere else but the right. Anyway, his performances on the left were dodgy, he didn’t perform to the level we know he can….but I’m sure if he’d been given more chances on the right flank, he would’ve performed.

  11. King Eric says:

    Sparkz. Spot on. You too Willie.

    Another quality of Nani is you can hit a forty yard pass to him when he is tight to the touchline and he will bring it down with ease on his chest or a fancy take with his feet. I will be the first to admit when he disappeared out the side for a few weeks a couple of years ago I thought his time was up. I wouldn’t have been bothered if he had gone. I remember a couple of stinkers. One against spurs in that five two come back and stoke away when he was hauled off at haltime and replaced by giggs who instantly set up berba. Two different seasons I know but he was so fucking frustrating. Everyone knew though he had the ability. Thank fuck its Fergie. Who is the boss and not me. Each season he is gettng better and better and is still just 24. He will become one of worlds best players.

  12. King Eric says:

    Regarding anfield as long as we turn up this time we will beat the cunts. We haven’t turned up last three times. Fuck me. They aint even a decent side but its their cup final. As I said before got a feeling we will win this game. They are not the team they were when they had stevie me and ladyboy in their pomp, Alonso and Mascherano. Just need to keep that horrible goofy cheating cunt Suarez quiet.

  13. Samuel - united WE stand says:

    Valencia is never a central midfield player, in that position you need more than pace and power, it requires good positioning and passing qualities, reading and intercepting e.t.c, i wouldn’t say these are valencia’s qualities, he can do a job there if we’re extremely desperate but no more than that.

  14. voice of reason says:

    Speaking of CM how exciting will it be in 2-3 yrs time. I really don’t think Sir Alex will buy any midfielders at all. Looks like pogba will be in 1st team by the end of the season and tunnicliffe the next season hopefully and morrison surely must make it..

    whats the general take on petrucci , drinkwater, james, norwood? These guys were promising at one stage

  15. lordrt says:

    I dnt know if you guys saw it, but in PES he is stated as having CM qualities as well, so this means he can play in central midfield instead of only on the wings like currently, and if he is taken off right back against the scousers and played alongside Ando or Tom then he could use his power and passing skills to good effect I believe… Fergie to give it a go is another thing thou

  16. Balaji Sivaraman says:

    @denton, Apologies for the late reply, frigging opposite time zones. I completely agree that SAF is usually right when he plays one of our players out of position. Case in point Park as a central mid-fielder against Milan a few years ago or even Valencia at RB till he had the horror show against Norwich. As I said, it might work as a stop-gap option, but to completely change a player’s role just to accomodate him in the team instead of on the bench is something I am not too keen on. As usual, SAF is the master, if he thinks Valencia will work as a CM, then I have no qualms with it. Like I’ve made it known before, I blindly follow the man and think everything he does is right. ;)

  17. fan of mu says:

    From my observation, Nani is the player who can assist Rooney to score goals provided Rooney dosen’t waste sitters provided to him.

  18. badger says:

    @Balaji: Park has played most of his career in CM, his performances there for PSV against Milan were probably the reason why Fergie bought him and IMO is definitely his best position because a winger he is not…

  19. JayKay says:

    personally, i think Berba is the answer to to our midfield woes. He has sublime skill and his passing and distribution is second to none in world football.

  20. parryheid says:

    Heard it,You ain’t convincing me flatters to deceive only reason he’s playing right wing just now is because Valencia was given time to recover after a knock on international duty and then filling in at right back.Nani hasn’t got the mental capacity to be world class his head drops at the slightest setback,as for showing Valencia onto his weaker side do you mean like Ashley Cole does Chelsea’s World Class left back.

  21. What??? says:

    Well Written Scott.

    A few of us considered Valencia in midfield seasons ago, and I don’t see why it couldn’t work now. Powerhouse aside, Tony doesn’t get enough credit for his skillful link up play and his control on the ball. He might only have one foot but he’s clinical with it – one of our best passers in the final third. Add his strength and his defensive game, why couldn’t Tony perform a reserved role in midfield for us? He’s already better than average at RB…

    But for our starting 11 central midfield, Anderson and Cleverly are our best pairing right now. Ando plays his best alongside a similar player who can defend and attack as well as he does. Watch him and Tom against Arsenal and you see they play off eachother, just like him and Hargreaves. Ando can play the role in front of Carrick as well, but his movement is anchored by the gap between them whenever he runs forward. Thats why Ando with Carrick is more restricted and reliant on Hollywood passes. With Tom its opposite, they play loads of passes between them and keep possession moving up and down the pitch while swapping roles. Without doubt they are our best pairing atm.

    The irony is Fletcher is basically the same type of player as well. He doesn’t just sit, or bomb forward, he defends as well as he attacks, and he retains the ball well in midfield. Fletcher in top form is one of the best midfielders in the league, but he needs more games before he’s back to his very best. Must say wouldn’t mind seeing Jones in midfield if we ever needed to. He can stick a boot in, dribble the ball from defence, and he can pass. Very tidy player. Not a bad candidate should injuries start piling up, and its nice to know we’ve got options in midfield

  22. What??? says:

    King Eric @ 22:31. Spot on mate. If Nani ain’t world class already who in his age group is? He’s one of the best footballers anywhere, and he’s only gonna get better and better. Im glad he didn’t take the 7 shirt when it was available, but once Micky Owen calls it a day at OT theres only one player who deserves it imo. Nani was born to wear that shirt, and the history behind it goes back a sight further than Ronaldo. Give him a year or two, I think he’ll be ready.

  23. WillieRedNut says:

    Who said I was trying to convince you parry? It’s my position. He’s close to being world class. You seem blinkered on this, so I won’t continue the discussion. Suffice to say though, you’ll be proved wrong. Your Gibson comment was laughable. Nani ripped Cole apart at OT. In the process, scored a smashing goal. Class act, and getting better with every game.

  24. parryheid says:

    I’ll ask the question slightly differently for the guys who think Nani should be given the right wing position.Do you’s think Valencia in his third year at the club has gone backwards as a player ? In other words do you’s think his time has come and gone ? If not how in hell do you’s think Nani should take the position he has been unable to take for the last two years.

  25. WillieRedNut says:

    You get it wrong again Parry. It’s not about Valencia going backwards. I don’t believe he has. For me, I’m going by form. Nani is red hot atm. Since Nani tore Arsenal a new one in that game were he produced a piece a magic to bamboozle Clichy, there’s been a change in the lad. The penny has dropped with him. He always had the ability, now he’s performing consistently. Hence, he’s getting picked on the right hand side. The manager is trying Tony v at RB for a reason. Not just injuries.

  26. badger says:

    @Parry: Nani was being played down the left all the time because we didn’t have any other options there before signing Young what with Giggsy playing through the middle now and Park being used ‘sparingly’. When Valencia got injured last year Nani really showed what he was about IMO and without a shadow of a doubt RW is his best position, I actually think that Nani is probably 20% less effective down the left.

    I like Valencia, always have done, but he is a throwback to the old winger days being powerful and direct, whereas Nani has all the tricks and skills. I think we look a lot more balanced and threatening with Young down the left (who has been a revelation to me BTW) and Nani down the right, its a shame that Valencia is so one footed because he could cover either wing but you will only really ever see him down the right.

    In answer to your question I don’t think Valencia has gone backwards, its just that Nani is a better player and as Willie said he’s in red hot form at the moment, there’s no disgrace in that because Nani will become a world beater, that I’m sure of.

  27. parryheid says:

    Opinions Opinions You have yours I mine,he couldn’t prove us wrong yet and I don’t expect any change this year and I take into consideration he was for a time in Valencia’s absences last year in hot form.and in Valencia’s absence to date this year the same,lets wait and see how it pans out.We may soon find out about shit talk.

  28. WillieRedNut says:

    Believe me, I know the difference! ;)

  29. parryheid says:

    After visiting a knocking shop a man notices green lumps on his willy
    he goes to the doctor to find whats wrong
    Doc says you’ve heard of cauliflower ear
    Yes he say’s
    Well you’ve got brothel sprouts.

  30. King Eric says:

    Willie – Pointless arguing mate. This is the bloke that wanted Craig Gordon , told blatant fucking lies about me then didnt even have the decency to apologise. I don’t like his tone, I really don’t. I gave him my condolonces for losing his daughter. Not so much as a fucking thanks just some snide comment. Oh and there there was this Sunderland in the know bullshit that was attributed to Kings and I and neither of us had any fucking idea what he was on about. Fuck it mate.

    How hasn’t Nani got the mental capacity? He gets his head down and season on season has improved. As I say I love Tony Valencia but he isn’t in the same league as Nani.

    What — Hello mate. Spot on pal. A mate and me were on about it last night. Give him the number 7 when Micky goes. But then I don’t think Nani would be that bothered. He is Europes best winger and for those who disagree name someone better at present.

  31. King Eric says:

    badger – Good post pal.

  32. Champions 19 says:

    Valencia is a great defence 4 now but would love valencia 2 play in the milfeilder with Cleverly plus what will the score be 4 the liverpool game Plus my line out 4 the liverpool game is De Gea, Valencia,Jones,Smalling,Evra,Nani,Fletcher,Cleverley,Hernandez,Rooney, Sub will be; Lindeerd, Rio,Carrick,Park,berbatov. Anyone agree or Disagee

  33. parryheid says:

    King Eric’
    When I stupidly gave out circumstances regarding my daughter it was in response to a post regarding smoking it was not divulged for sympathy as I said at the time so don’t use it to massage your stupid ego with real or imagined hurt you obnoxious cunt.I might add I am more than a little tired of you and a small group trying to force your views on me because you can’t give a reasoned answer to the posts I made on this page.And there are six people know what I was referring to I am one,two and three are you and the person you are chit chatting to so go and take a running fuck to’t bother to respond cause I wont ta ta twat.

  34. badger says:

    Cheers King Eric, I have the odd lucid moment…

  35. King Eric says:

    parryheid – .Me an obnoxious cunt? Thats rich coming from a man who while I was in Dubai told a total lie and didnt have the decency to apologise even when written evidence was brought up to prove you lied. I chose to forget it then thought a gesture of goodwill toward your daughter was a decent thing to do. Not even a thanks. So you my friend can go fuck yourself you rude cunt.

    Trying to force our opinions on you? Oh that old chestnut. Grow up. I seem to recall you saying you were in your forties which is a surprise to me as your manners are akin to a 5 year old.

  36. King Eric says:

    Oh and how is saying “sorry to hear of your loss” massaging my ego? Fucking rude bastard.


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