Next up in our player season reviews is Antonio Valencia. The player that has been loyal to Manchester United for the past nine years had a season that could characterized as good, making the right-back position all about him, even at the age of 32. Valencia is not getting younger, but his commitment and leadership have always been visible and that definitely helped him to remain one of the most consistent players.
What do the numbers say?
The numbers say he made 31 appearances in the Premier League, never coming on from the bench. He also made seven starts in Champions League and FA Cup combined. He managed to score three league goals and add an assist, but his reliability on the right flank has been very important to the team. Valencia is always fully committed to anything Jose Mourinho wants from him and he has been doing that at right-back.
Valencia was making 0.7 key passes per 90, which is somewhat expected and he added just 1.00 dribbles per 90. At right-back, that is not too bad, but it shows that he is not as much forward-thinking full-back he might have been before. What the bigger problem is here is that Valencia managed to complete just 20 percent of all of his crosses in the league and Champions League. The number of crosses he made was less important, but his inability to do it more consistently was evident. With 1.9 successful tackles and 1.5 interceptions per 90, he did decent job of helping out the back four from the wide areas.
However, at times it was obvious that Valencia is not at the highest level Manchester United would need from their starting right-back. Sure, he offers solidity, he is good at passing the ball and progressing it forwards and he can hold onto it as well. Yet none of that is actually high-risk type of job and where there is not much risk, there is no much gain either. The things he does, Valencia does well, but they are not always the best type of things United need.
Was he an important player for the club?
Yes, of course. He is one of the senior players and one of those that played the most minutes. Next to that, he played some decent football and helped United on their way to be one of the best defences in the league. Sure, he had his struggling moments, as well as the whole team, but overall looking, he did just fine. Whether that will be enough for Mourinho next season is another point, but there is no doubt about his importance.
Valencia is one of the players that can pull the team-mates forward and he will probably be an influential figure in the dressing room next season as well. He is a proper professional who never questions authority and Mourinho likes that type of a ‘soldier’.
Projection for the 2018-19 season
Antonio Valencia will stay at the club. With the arrival of Diogo Dalot, he could have the role of teaching him tricks of the trade during the season, but there is still no real evidence that he will not be a starter for Manchester United come this August.