Valencia unfazed by added pressure of number seven shirt
Manchester United's Antonio Valencia understands the importance of the number seven shirt
Following an impressive 2011/12 season for Manchester United, Antonio Valencia was voted the club’s player of the season and handed the iconic number seven shirt.
The shirt holds special significance at Old Trafford having been wore in the past by some of the clubs greatest and most influential players including George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona and David Beckham.
However, the Ecuadorian international has struggled to build on last terms form and has suffered something of a curse of the number seven shirt but Valencia is well aware of the responsibility that comes with such an honour.
He told The Daily Mail: "It means a lot. When I arrived at United I was already aware of exactly what the number seven shirt stood for here, because we all know that many legendary players have passed through the club and worn that shirt.
"Players who were almost larger than life. So I was pretty clued up about it and it’s a shirt that’s really made a huge impact at this club.
"It’s a shirt that needs to be worn by a player who is maybe that little bit different - individuals if you like. That’s how I see it anyway.
"You could say it’s the winning mentality.
"It’s the mentality of a champion, always wanting to win and having that hunger for trophies.
"Take David Beckham, he wore that shirt for what, eight to ten seasons and won five or six titles in that time, that’s something you look at and see why he shirt means so much at this club.
"Cantona, Cristiano, Beckham - they really were all one-off players and it’s the word “individual” that most accurately describes them.
"Even growing up in Ecuador, I was aware of Best’s place amongst the great players - I only wishes he had played a few years later and I could have seen more of him."
Valencia will in all reality never be recalled in the list of great and iconic United number seven’s but he will need to up his current level of performance if he is to keep the historic shirt in his possession.
Last year he bordered on the unplayable, running at defenders with pace and strength and was often capable of finding the final killer ball or cross. This year he is almost unwilling to commit defenders, often easily forced inside onto his weaker left side and rendered ineffective.
The Ecuadorian has struggled this term with a persistent back injury but cannot be written off lightly as back in 2010 Valencia suffered a broken ankle that kept him out of action for six months and threatened to ruin his Old Trafford career.
He returned a more hungry and almost better player leading up to last season’s personal triumph and United fans will be hoping the winger can bounce back once more.
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