Valencia and Young Facing Bit-Part Roles as David Moyes Clips Man United's Wings

Rob Dawson@@RobDawsonMENManchester United CorrespondentMarch 12, 2014

BLACKBURN, ENGLAND - APRIL 02:  Ashley Young of Manchester United celebrates scoring his team's second goal with team mate Antonio Valencia (L) during the Barclays Premier League match between Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United at Ewood Park on April 2, 2012 in Blackburn, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Manchester United fans have had a lot to be unhappy about this season.

Spoilt by 20 years of success, they're not used to this. Most of them knew it would be a tough transition under David Moyes. Though perhaps not this tough.

There's every chance this season will end in disappointment. No trophies. No Champions League football.

But in the last fortnight there have at least been signs of progress. Signs that Moyes is slowly finding a direction. It's just a very different one from the United we once knew.

The last two Premier League games have ended in victory. With Adnan Januzaj, Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie in the team, they've won at Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion. Two games, two wins, five goals scored and none conceded. 

It was only Crystal Palace and West Brom—16th and 17th in the table—but you've got to start somewhere.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12:  (L-R) Adnan Januzaj, Juan Mata and Patrice Evra of Manchester United warm up before the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium on February 12, 2014 in London, England.  (
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Routine wins have become so precious this season that how they are achieved has become largely irrelevant. But the more keen-eyed supporters will have noticed that the flying wingers United are famous for have disappeared. 

Instead, the wins at Selhurst Park and the Hawthorns were achieved with Mata and Januzaj, inverted wingers, happier drifting inside than hugging the touchline.

Sir Matt Busby won the 1968 European Cup with John Ashton Jr. and George Best. Sir Alex Ferguson won the treble in 1999 with Ryan Giggs and David Beckham.

19 Aug 2001:  Ryan Giggs (left) and David Beckham (right) of Manchester United celebrate during the FA Barclaycard Premiership match against Fulham played at Old Trafford, in Manchester, England. Manchester United won the match 3-2. \ Mandatory Credit: Al
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

But the formula Moyes has found—something more in line with the fashionable 4-2-3-1—is different.

And that means United's more traditional wingers—Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia and Nani—may be forced to accept roles as bit-part players in the future.

With Januzaj rested and Mata cup-tied for the Champions League second round first leg with Olympiacos, Moyes brought back Young and Valencia. But it didn't work and United returned from Greece on the brink of an embarrassing exit from Europe.

It will have only encouraged Moyes to stick with his wingless wonders.

That's not to suggest Valencia, Young and Nani face an imminent exit from Old Trafford. Every team, every manager, needs a Plan B and extra width is never a bad one.

PIRAEUS, GREECE - FEBRUARY 25:  (L-R) Ashley Young of Manchester United holds off Michael Olaitan of Olympiacos during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Olympiacos FC and Manchester United at Karaiskakis Stadium on February 25,
Michael Regan/Getty Images

But Mata, the club's record signing, and Januzaj, only 19 years old and with a new five-year contract in his pocket, are the future. And that means the days when Valencia and Young were regulars for the big games are coming to an end.

United's history is littered with great wingers. Best, Giggs, Andrei Kanchelskis, Lee Sharpe, Jesper Olsen, Steve Coppell and Gordon Hill.

But they're entering a new era. It's been facilitated by Moyes' signings, the squad he has at his disposal and the evolution of tactics and formations.

And it's shaping to be the blueprint for United's new, more modern, identity.


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