Despite Manchester United storming to record-breaking 20th league title, concerns have been raised over the effectiveness and consistencies of United’s winger.
Here we look to understand the notion behind the inconsistencies down the Red Devils' flanks and what the future may hold.
From hero to zero – what has happened to Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia? Last season saw the Ecuadorian pick up the coveted prize of Manchester United’s Player of the Year.
However we’ve seen nothing of the efficiency and performance in the 27-year-old’s game this season that deserved him that award. Valencia’s game has become far too predictable and combined with a lack of confidence has seen him fall down the club’s pecking order.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that Valencia is single footed and this has severely hindered his game. Being singled footed prevents him from cutting inside because of his lack of confidence to use his other foot making him predictable and easy to read because he will hug the touchline.
The 27-year-old’s ability to shoot is a concern but he still remains a good crosser of the ball and needs to work on his game to regain his fine form from last season.
From Ronaldo's replacement to Manchester United outcast, the Portuguese star has never been consistent enough to replicate the form of earlier United stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs.
In recent seasons Luis Nani hasn’t been able to meet the high expectations of consistency upon which the club pride themselves. His inability to produce great performances on the big stage has hampered his bid to become regarded as one of the best players on the footballing planet.
Big players perform in the big games and that’s something that Nani hasn't been capable of. Although he remains productive in terms of stats, his in-play game performances aren't good enough.
The 26-year-old constantly picks the wrong option after getting into some great positions, sometimes choosing to shoot over playing the simply pass. This has left Nani spending much of his time on the substitutes’ bench rather than flashing his skills down the wings.
This combined with his poor attitude and reliability has led him to be an outcast at United and a potential sale in this summer’s transfer market.
The 2012/13 season has seen Ashley Young spend much of his time keeping the physio staff busy. The England winger has only racked up 19 Premier League appearances this season.
The 27-year-old should be entering the peak of his career, but instead has suffered possibly the least productive season of his career. There is no doubt about Ashley Young’s delivery or ability to beat a man, but questions remain of his confidence and proneness to injury. If Ashley Young is to become a top player, like Nani he needs to be able to deliver in the big games.
We are yet to see this from Ashley Young after signing from Aston Villa in 2011. If he can bounce back and remain in form he can become a good squad player for Manchester United.
In fairness to the Japanese star, the role as a winger isn’t one that comes naturally to him. The star hasn’t been used to his full potential this season with Sir Alex Ferguson utilising him as a winger.
If the 24-year-old is going to become a star at Old Trafford, manger David Moyes must occupy him as a central attacking-midfielder.
In this position Kagawa can be more effective at what he does best, linking up with the forward, making intelligent runs and scoring more goals – most notably seen when he scored his hat-trick against Norwich this season.
What does the future hold?
One of the main issues facing the current crop of wingers at Manchester United is the fact they are a crop of the ‘traditional wingers’. In recent years, football has seen a movement in the evolution of the wing position.
Gone are the days of wingers staying touched to the side-line, now wingers have adapted to play across the front line. This means that clubs’ wingers have to be versatile and able to play several different positions during the season, or even a single match. This makes it difficult for defenders to track and understand the movement of any given winger in a match.
For United to be more effective next season they need to consider a number of options. Either the club can look externally for new investments or they can look to promote from within.
Rumours surrounding Old Trafford have seen the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and James Rodriquez linked to joining the Red Devils. It would be a wise move to splash the cash on players of this calibre that would bring a new dynamic to United’s attack.
With that being said Manchester United have already signed Crystal Palace’s Wilfred Zaha and may look to promote from within if they remain confident with the current crop. The club may want to monitor the impact of their January signing and with the ever promising Adnan Januzaj, Manchester United look to have a bright future without need to heavily spend on external recruitments.
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