Antonio Valencia’s return has given Man United a timely boost
Sir Alex Ferguson is understandably delighted by his winger's return to action, writes Kieran Beckles
It hasn’t come as a surprise to Sir Alex Ferguson, but Antonio Valencia’s return to action has given Manchester United a timely boost as the season reaches its climax.
The 25-year-old has brought some much-needed stability back to treble-chasing United’s right wing – and it is no coincidence that Wayne Rooney and Javier HernÃƒÂ¡ndez have thrived since his comeback.
Ferguson opted not to do any business during the January transfer window, and the United boss insists that was a decision influenced by Valencia’s eventual return from the broken ankle he suffered last September.
“We expected Antonio to come back like this,” he said. “He is an outstanding footballer, who is very capable of being a threat.
“His understanding of the game is terrific. He has a great tactical brain. The boy has everything: balance, power and speed.”
The Equador international has blossomed on the right side of United’s midfield since his £16m move to Old Trafford from Wigan Athletic in 2009.
While his game may be less varied than Nani’s unpredictable and often explosive offering, his more conventional style means United’s forwards are better placed to anticipate the Ecuadorian’s final pass or teasing cross.
Rooney, for example, has already netted five goals since Valencia made his comeback last month. And Sir Alex Ferguson’s men have recorded six successive victories in the same period.
Playing Nani and Valencia together in the same side has also proved fruitful for Ferguson. United have won 90 per cent of the games in which Nani and Valencia have both started, a figure that drops to 60 per cent when Ferguson has selected just one of the pair.
It is no wonder then, that Ferguson is excited by the prospect of deploying both together as United seek to emulate the treble-winning side of 1999.
“Nani has had a fantastic season,” said Ferguson. “To have the two of them [Nani and Valencia] available is a tremendous boost at this time of year.”