The Ecuadorian, ably assisted by Rafael, tore left-back Antonio Luna to pieces.
In the first half in particular, Valencia was at the centre of everything that was good about United’s play. His pace, power and precision proved to be too much for an unorganised Aston Villa defence. He was rightly nominated as a Man of the Match candidate:
But he must build on that showing in the coming weeks and months, because United are a better team when he plays well.
Valencia Typified United’s Strong Play
Valencia’s game is straightforward. He beats a defender, puts a cross in and allows the strikers to do the rest. When he’s on form, it proves to be extremely effective for United.
The video clip above illustrates that point perfectly.
Time after time, his athleticism was too much for the Aston Villa defenders to handle. More importantly, though, he provided quality passes and crosses to his teammates, and was involved in United’s first two goals.
He typified everything that was good about United on the day.
United manager David Moyes was certainly pleased with Valencia’s display when he spoke to Sky Sports during his post-match interview:
As one of the team’s primary creators, Valencia stepped up when it mattered. If United are to score more goals—as Moyes has called for—then Valencia will need to continue playing the way he did against Aston Villa.
Valencia Replicated His European Form on the Domestic Scene
Against Aston Villa, Valencia was able to replicate his European form on the Premier League stage. That’s something he needs to do more often, because there’s no doubt that his better performances under David Moyes have come in the Champions League.
He scored home and away against Bayer Leverkusen but had failed to carry that form back to the domestic scene.
That changed on Sunday, however, when he was at his very best.
Call off the search - Manchester United's Player of the Year 2011-12 Antonio Valencia has been found— manutdfuture (@manutdfuture) December 15, 2013
We’ve seen Valencia terrorise opponents in Europe this season and, against Aston Villa, he showed signs that he can replicate that form in the Premier League.
Valencia and Rafael Were a Constant Threat
Valencia’s partnership with Rafael has been well-established for some time now. The pair teamed up superbly well against Aston Villa and tormented their left flank all game.
Watch the video clip above to see how the pair worked in harmony throughout the game.
What’s particularly impressive about their partnership is that they share responsibilities. Valencia’s willingness to carry out his defensive duties eases the pressure on Rafael, while the Brazilian gets forward in attack whenever possible.
They are a constant threat.
The Rafael-Valencia combo worked really well. Both players helping each other in defense and while going forward. Tearing Villa apart.— Rohit. (@TheUnitedGuy_) December 15, 2013
For Valencia to build on his strong showing against Aston Villa, he will need to continue his partnership with Rafael. When the duo play well together, United play well as a team.
Let’s not get too carried away here, because Valencia has been poor in a number of games this season.
How important is Valencia?
Consistency, then, is what we must see from the Ecuadorian going forward.
If he can string together a number of performances akin to his showing vs. Aston Villa, then his confidence will soar. That, in turn, will ensure that he and United play better football on a regular basis.
United’s preferred system demands width, particularly on the right-hand side. If Valencia can build on his showing against Aston Villa, then he can hold down that position in the starting XI for the next couple of years with ease.
He’s unplayable on his day and, unfortunately for Aston Villa, they had to find that out the hard way.