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Why Manchester United's Best Starting XI Must Include Antonio Valencia

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 17:  Antonio Valencia of Manchester United celebrates scoring his team's fourth goal during the UEFA Champions League Group A match between Manchester United and Bayer Leverkusen at Old Trafford on September 17, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Chris FlemingCorrespondent IDecember 31, 2016

David Moyes has tinkered with Manchester United’s starting line-up this season, with little reward. One of the problem areas is who he plays out wide, particularly on the right. Granted, Moyes has many different options, but Antonio Valencia must be included in his starting XI.

It won’t be a popular view with some United fans because the Ecuadorian has been underwhelming over the last 18 months.

There’s no doubt that he must improve.

He does, however, offer more than his teammates for that role on the right.

Let’s explore who he’s up against…


Luis Nani

A frustrated Nani vs. Southampton
A frustrated Nani vs. SouthamptonShaun Botterill/Getty Images

Nani must be one of the most frustrating Man United players ever.

Clearly, he is blessed with tremendous natural ability. He just struggles to produce enough quality on a consistent basis.

He is quick, skilful and has a good shot. The question, then, is why does he have so few goals and assists to his name?

This GIF shows Nani at his very best…

We just don’t see that side of him often enough.

Nani has been at United for years, and if he was going to make the step up, he would have done it by now.

The fact that he was offered a five-year deal in September, per The Guardian, suggests that he will be an option for some years to come. Just don’t expect anything in return.


Ashley Young

Young booked following his dive vs. Crystal Palace
Young booked following his dive vs. Crystal PalaceMichael Regan/Getty Images

When Ashley Young was signed from Aston Villa, he was playing the best football of his life. And it continued for a little while when he adorned the red shirt of Manchester United.

Sadly, his impact has waned and he is unlikely to ever be a key player for United. In fact, he could well be sold within the next year.

His diving is unacceptable, even if it is just once or twice. The way he throws himself at the defender in this following GIF is embarrassing.

He does, however, cross the ball well. He would prefer to play on the left, but Danny Welbeck and now Adnan Januzaj are above him in the pecking order for that spot.

If he is sold, he could prosper at another Premier League club, just not at Manchester United.


Antonio Valencia

Valencia celebrating his goal vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Valencia celebrating his goal vs. Bayer LeverkusenMichael Regan/Getty Images

But let’s now turn our attention to Valencia.

When Valencia goes forward with intent, his power and direct approach prove so very effective. In truth, his driven crosses are a fantastic weapon.

He's the fastest player in world football right now. No, really! Check out this fantastic graphic of the world's fastest players... 

He is demonstrably one of the most athletic players in the world, which is a real asset for David Moyes.

Valencia’s performance against Bayer Leverkusen is the type of display that United need from him week in, week out.

His assist for Robin van Persie’s goal sums up what he can offer. Running at the defender and clipping in a cross, as he does in this following clip, is what United need: 

Furthermore, he provides more defensive cover than Nani or Young.

His relationship with Rafael is established, and the two combine well together on the attack.

In essence, he must be included in the starting XI based on the player that he can be, and not the player he is right now.

If anything, Valencia is short of confidence. He needs a run of games and a little bit of luck to get out of his rut.

Make no mistake, he must improve.

If he does, then he is the best long-term option for the Manchester United starting XI.

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