Manchester United are on the verge of losing one of their most consistent players for, at least, a few weeks. Antonio Valencia left the game against West Bromwich with a muscular injury. Unfortunately, he could be out for a long period of time.
Valencia left the pitch in the 66th minute and replaced by Marcos Rojo. Many thought it was only a minor muscular strain, but Jose Mourinho confirmed during the post-match conference that it was something bigger. Valencia suffered a hamstring problem, although the severity of the ailment is not clear. One thing is certain, though, and is that Valencia won’t play again in the calendar year, though. Let’s remember Pogba suffered a hamstring problem back in September against CSKA Moscow, and spent almost two months on the sidelines.
The main problem here for Mourinho is how to replace Valencia. The Ecuadorian had started the past seven games for United, and can operate at both right-back and right-wing back. As if that wasn’t enough, the former Wigan star has been wearing the captain armband in absence of Michael Carrick, so his absence could be greatly felt. After all, Valencia has made 24 appearances for United in all competitions this season, scoring twice.
What are the alternatives to replace Valencia?
Mourinho has a few alternatives to replace him, though. Phil Jones can play at right-back on a pinch, and might be an alternative. However, the long-term absence of Eric Bailly suggests the England international won’t move from his regular centre-back position. As such, the only two viable alternatives become Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind. Both players have seen time at left-back during the current term, but both can operate on the right if needed. In fact, Darmian’s natural role is the one of right-back, so he makes the most sense.
Darmian offers the same deal as Valencia when it comes to positional ability. He can play as a full-back or wing-back, and in fact he is a bit superior defensively. Valencia was a former winger that converted to the RB role, while Darmian has been a full-back during this entire career. Ergo, the Italy international seems like a solid bet to take over Valencia’s place in the starting XI.
Don’t count Blind out, though. His positional versatility and ability to slide into a more central role could be useful when needing to close games out. But on that same note, he might fit better on a bench role since he can patch up several positions all over the defensive end of the pitch.
United face Bristol City at Ashton Gate in the Carabao Cup quarter-final on Wednesday night. They will also take on Leicester City away next Saturday, so there is a packed fixture coming for The Red Devils in the coming days. And unfortunately, they will have to face these games without the Ecuador international.