Antonio Valencia can hit top gear again

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Before this year's Community Shield kicked off, it was announced that Antonio Valencia would not be wearing Manchester United's iconic No. 7 shirt this season.

Instead, the Ecuadorian winger had reverted back to No. 25, the shirt in which he flourished during his first three seasons at Old Trafford.

It was a perfectly understandable decision. The 28-year-old endured a frustrating campaign last term – certainly his worst since joining the Red Devils for £17m in 2009 – scoring a paltry one goal in 39 appearances during Sir Alex Ferguson's final season in charge at Old Trafford.

Valencia looked a shadow of his former self for much of last term. Where he used to take on full-backs with his searing pace and provide a goal-threat from the right-flank, which he often dominated, all of a sudden the confidence had been drained from him.

It was like watching a totally different player.

Was the pressure of wearing that No. 7 shirt simply too much to handle? Judging by his decision to vacate the shirt worn by multiple club legends including George Best, Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo, it seems Valencia certainly thought so.

It may only be a number on the back of the shirt, but superstition plays a prominent role amongst footballers, and it may feel like a weight has been lifted from Valencia's shoulders now that someone else can take centre-stage.

Valencia is a humble character, but the No. 7 shirt demands someone who's not only gifted, but also a showman who relishes the limelight – like a Ronaldo or a Cantona.

It seems Valencia is happier just to the side of the spotlight, rather than directly under it – and if that helps him to rediscover his confidence then, for Manchester United, it will feel like having a new signing in their ranks.

When on top of his game, the South American is a nightmare for opposition full-backs. At the start of this season, he's shown glimpses of the old Valencia, and that can only be an encouraging sign for his new manager David Moyes.

The Ecuador international suffered a huge emotional blow before the start of this season when his compatriot and close friend Christian Benitez tragically passed away – but Valencia displayed his incredible mental strength by courageously taking to the field so soon afterwards.

He won't require even half that amount of mental strength to rediscover his best form on the pitch this season.

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Manchester United
Luis Antonio Valencia
Antonio Valencia
Premier League

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