So why are us United fans mourning the loss of our winger, Luis Antonio Valencia Mosquera, who sustained his injury whilst creating the second decisive goal against Ajax?
Our Ecuadorian winger, (born on the 4th August 1985), has just ‘TERMINATED’ the opposition in Januarys’ Player On the Month Award with Our Red Rants Readers, winning 56% of the vote. Surely a testament to his remarkable return from the sickening break against Rangers and further ankle injury in the pre-season, but then again, this is a player who has fought tooth and nail to get to the top. After dalliances in the Spanish league with the yellow submarines of Villarreal and Recreativo he found his way to Manchester United in June 2009 following a 3 yr spell with Wigan. We splashed £16mil of the Ronaldo cash on this South American Retro winger. Seen as a throwback to times gone by, he combines Ultimate functionality with rugged determination. His game is supposedly about pace, power and the By-line, an archetypical winger, he’s been likened to Andrei Kanchelskisis, but surely that’s a lazy analogy. Simply too cliché. He doesn’t have the flying Russian’s blinkers when attacking or his reluctance to track back. He has become more than this, more than the sum of his parts, starring in a series of all-action displays despite an over-reliance on that right foot.
During his career he has been something of a positional nomad; starting in central midfield, he made his name as a powerful fleet footed winger whose direct play and excellent crossing resonates with anyone who watched the winged wonders of the 70’s and 80’s. Recently he has done an excellent job covering Right-back, showing an uncanny ability to adapt to a defensive job in an alien position. This flexibility and awareness positions Antonio apart from his previous counterparts.
Games against Arsenal and latterly against Ajax displayed a change in his mentality and further proof of his growing creative significance. In the Arsenal game not only did he add a headed goal to his repartee but his assist revealed a desire to run the inside channel to setup Welbeck rather than the more predictable outside route to cross. Whereas, against Ajax, Valencia took the ball in-field to make a formidable driving run drawing the defender and choosing the perfect time to release the ball into the evacuated space to open up the Ajax centre of defence; breathtakingly simple and elegant.
Whilst January has highlighted the surprising inconsistencies that have plagued this season.
EPL: 4/1/12 Newcastle 0-3 L (Played at RB, best player)
FAC: 8/1/12 Man City 3-2 W (Assist for Rooney)
EPL: 14/1/12 Bolton 3-0 W (Man of the Match wing play)
EPL: 22/1/12 Arsenal 2-1 W (Headed goal and 1-2 and run sets up Welbeck for dramatic late winner)
FAC: 28/1/12 Liverpool 1-2 L (Back healed flick releases Rafael to set up Park for equaliser. Powerful driving run and shot rebounds off the post.)
EPL: 31/1/12 Stoke 2-0 W (won penalty)
Antonio Valencia has been the one constant through January, his consistency a galvanising presence compared to that of his more celebrated and more infuriating teammates. In the 6 January games he has been involved in, he has been directly/indirectly involved in the creation of 5 goals; that’s an amazing 45.5% of all the goals scored in that time. This is following on from a 96% passing rate for the games over the festive period.
“Antonio has been playing brilliantly. He is back to his best and when he is like that he is so difficult to defend against. It is great for the forwards because he is so good at delivering the ball into the box quickly.”
– Wayne Rooney, speaking before Man United’s trip to Arsenal
His ability to produce these reliable performances are more akin to Mr. Consistency himself; Dennis Irwin, allowing Antonio to contribute 2 goals and nine direct assists in only 17 games in the 2011/12 season.
He has become our silent scowling assassin, targeting the opposition………
The Man is Part footballer,
The Man is Part Machine,
This Man Is An All Red Terminator……..And He’ll Be Back Soon……..Thank God!
You can see the results of the poll here.
(a copy of the full wallpaper size image (2000 x 1000) is available on Facebook or on request)