Can Valencia replace Ronaldo for United?

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles

On Tuesday, Sir Alex Ferguson set about rebuilding his considerably weakened team, completing Manchester United’s first transfer of the summer.

Yet the wily Scot didn’t invest in a so called ‘big name’ like Franck Ribery, instead signing the highly-rated Ecuadorian midfielder, Antonio Valencia.

He makes the switch from Wigan Athletic to Old Trafford after a year of constant speculation in the media. The move has set United back around £16 million while Valencia signs a four-year deal with the Red Devils.

The question on every-one’s lips is whether United’s new signing can fill the gaping void left by their influential former number seven, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Valenica possesses silky skills and electric pace, both qualities often attributed to Ronaldo. He is hard to shrug off the ball, and rarely loses possession. In addition, he has a fantastic work-rate which the Portuguese star so often lacked.

Valencia arrived in England in 2006. He was brought to Wigan Athletic by Paul Jewell who had watched Ecuadorian produce a string of fine performances in the 2006 World Cup. When Bruce took over the helm at the JJB Stadium, the former Manchester United star managed to cultivate Valencia into one of the most promising wingers in the Premiership.

Ferguson is renowned for getting the best out of his players. He will have undoubtedly seen the raw talent in the right winger. It would be no surprise to see Britain’s most decorated manager nurture Valencia into one of best players in the Premiership, as he did with a 18-year-old Ronaldo.

It also saves Manchester United an abundance of money. Having received £80 million from Ronaldo’s switch to Real Madrid, unquestionably the Old Trafford club have money to spend.

Franck Ribery was touted as a possible replacement. However it seemed United would have to part with at least £30 million to bring the French star to England – simply too much.

Valencia who is younger, is in my opinion more value for money then Ribery. He hasn’t yet peaked, has adapted to the English game, and is more versatile then than the 26-year-old French winger.

Valenica was courted by Real Madrid, Liverpool and Chelsea before he picked the English champions as his preferred destination.

Yesterday, Sir Alex Ferguson spoke about the potential of his new signing, saying: “Antonio is a player we have admired for some time now, having spent the last two years in the Premier League with Wigan.

“I am sure his pace and ability will make a significant contribution to the team.”

Yet, Valencia does have certain flaws. In 31 appearances last term, he managed a paltry three goals. Undoubtedly this is the one part of his game that requires significant improvement.

It also appears Manchester United are poised to lose out on long term target, Karim Benzeama, as the French wonderkid looks set to complete a £30 million switch from Lyon to Real Madrid.

With Valencia’s David Villa set to remain in Spain it seems Ferguson will have to look elsewhere to find a suitable replacement for Argentine, Carlos Tevez.
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