Manchester United have a number of top class players, but there is one that seems to slip under the radar for accolades probably all too often.
There is another man who should most definitely be on that list, one that has steadily improved his game and so has in turn improved the Old Trafford team – his name is Antonio Valencia.
However, United fans cannot be accused of overlooking him, as they have just voted him their Player of the Month through the club’s official.
This has comes about in a month where Valencia was arguably man of the match in all of United’s games in January, especially those against Arsenal and Stoke City.
The Ecuadorian winger has come on leaps and bounds in the past two years and is fast becoming an integral part of Ferguson’s plans.
Valencia’s current state is a stark contrast to the Wigan Athletic player who was sporadic in producing his best and was prone to bouts of indifference while out on the field.
Maybe it is to do with the inspirational qualities of playing at a place like Old Trafford compared to those of the DW Stadium – some would suggest there is a slight difference between the two.
The stage of a performance could also be a hindrance to a player not accustomed to such large and baying crowds, but Valencia seems to have thrived.
This is an example of the strength of mind the 26-year-old possesses, which was also illustrated by his almost effortless return to form after the horrific ankle injury he sustained.
A Champions League group game with Rangers at Old Trafford saw him get into a tangle on the right touchline and what seemed innocuous at first turned out to be a broken and dislocated ankle.
Many predicted him to be out for the season but he was back playing six months later as if he had never been away and his returned boosted Manchester United’s title-winning run.
Valencia forced his way into the United starting XI by producing displays full of hard work and efficient running with the ball – added to this was his ability to send in dangerous crosses for attackers.
One grateful recipient of Valencia’s pin-point accuracy is Wayne Rooney, who has scored a glut of goals from Valencia crosses over the season.
So far this season in the Premier League, only Manchester City’s David Silva has made more assists than Valencia – he is alongside team-mate Ryan Giggs and Chelsea’s Juan Mata on eight.
Not only are his crosses a good source of goals, his tactical awareness makes him a huge asset in the later stages of matches for Ferguson, especially when United are forced to chase the game or want to push for a winner.
Ferguson regularly sends on another more offensive player for the man at right-back and has Valencia drop in to the defensive position.
This worked especially well against Arsenal recently when Park Ji-Sung came on for Rafael and Valencia used the space left by the South Korean to run at Andrey Arshavin and set up the winning goal.
The recognition of the Ecuador international will be a triumph for an unassuming character who concentrates on consistency and lets his football do the talking.
He is a testament to professionalism and the real discipline that is required to capitalise on your attributes and exploit your talents as mush as possible.
If United do go on to retain their Premier League title this year, it will be through the efforts of Valencia as much as any of the other ‘superstars’
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