With the slow decline of the 4-4-2 formation, true wingers are increasingly hard to come by. By that I mean ones whose only mission is to get chalk on the boots and work the full back down the flank for the entire match and put crosses into the box. But Antonio Valencia at Man Utd seems to have broken that mould this season.
Despite impressing in flashes last season, It’s this year that he’s really come to the fore. He’s now a real threat and one of United’s best players.
Signed from Wigan in 2009 after being plucked from Spanish football, Valencia made a flying start to his Old Trafford career. The winger scored six goals in the 2008/09 season, all within the space of three months, but made even more assists with 7 in the Premier League.
An horrendous injury in the Champions League against Rangers threatened to halt Valencia’s progress but the Ecuadorian returned the same season after six months out with his leg break, culminating with a start in the 2011 Champions League final defeat to Barcelona.
The beginning of this campaign saw Valencia lose his midfield place to Nani and the winger was forced to fill in at right back. Whilst he did an adept job, he is not a defender and his talents went reasonably unnoticed.
But fast forward a few months and the former Wigan man has been let loose down the wing again and he wreaked havoc as United battled back into the title race. Again another six goal haul has followed but an even more impressive 13 Premier League assists put the Ecuadorian just one assist behind leader David Silva with two matches remaining.
He may not have made the PFA Team of the Year but as far as out and out wingers go, I have to agree with Phil Neville’s statement on BBC Radio 5 Live that Antonio Valencia is arguably the best winger in the Premier League. But I would go one step further and say that, on his day, he may well be the best in the world.
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