Despite starting the year at full cylinder, Manchester United have faltered as of recent. Squeaking past Norwich City in an unconvincing 2-0 victory and drawing their two other most recent performances with Stoke City and FC Basel in the Champions League, United will have the international break to get things back to normal if they want to remain atop the Premier League table and advance through the group stages in the manner they would have expected to.
The biggest issue for the Red Devils has been a lack of consistency in the playing squad. Injury has forced major realignment for Sir Alex’s side from the beginning of the season, where injuries to Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic forced the manager to partner Jonny Evans and Phil Jones in the back while being flanked by the veteran Patrice Evra and the center-half turned full-back Chris Smalling on the right.
That alignment, however, was beyond serviceable as United dominated the competition. Since then a Chris Smalling groin injury and Rio Ferdinand returning from injury have caused yet another reshuffling at the back. Additionally, Rafael’s shoulder injury has limited the options that United have had at right back, forcing the manager to try Ecuadorian winger Antonio Valencia in the position.
Of course Valencia has a huge learning curve and will need time to pick up on the nuances of playing the position, but Sir Alex may have stumbled onto an exciting new weapon out of a familiar face.
Valencia’s rapport with talisman Wayne Rooney has been noted when he went through his headed goal scoring spell with the winger often providing the service for Rooney to nod home. Adding him to the attack with overlapping runs allowing the right sided midfielder (usually Nani) to cut into the heart of the defense, as well prevents double back marking.
The extra support would be just another weapon in United’s deadly attack and yet another key to unlock some of the bunkered defenses they will face this season. Furthermore, Valencia’s physical attributes are well served for the position. Standing at 5’11 with a sturdy frame and gobs of pace, the Ecuadorian international would often be the physical specimen compared to whoever was tasked with attacking his flank.
This isn’t to say that Chris Smalling hasn’t performed well at the position, but a platoon of him and Valencia could provide different looks for Ferguson allowing him to match-up with differing sides and take advantage of weaknesses he sees.
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