Manchester United's Antonio Valencia will be out for the rest of the season after suffering a horrific ankle injury in Manchester United's goalless draw against Rangers in the Champions League last night.
The Ecuadorian winger was stretched off after an innocuous challenge from the Rangers defender Kirk Broadfoot in the 62nd minute of the match.
Valencia, 25, appeared to catch his studs in the turf after the tackle from the Rangers defender. Pictures of the incident showed Antonio Valencia's right leg hanging limply and with the boot at right angle to the ankle.
The injury was very much reminiscent to that suffered by former United player Alan Smith, who broke his left leg and dislocated his ankle in Manchester United's FA Cup defeat by Liverpool in February 2006.
Valencia was bought from Wigan in 2009 to replace Cristiano Ronaldo who joined Real Madrid for a record fee of £80 million. He was making his fourth appearance of the season and has just one goal to his name, which came in the 3-1 community shield win over Chelsea.
The match last night saw the return of striker Wayne Rooney, who missed the weekend draw away to Everton after being dropped by the Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
The United talisman had, arguably, the worst 10 days of his career after it was revealed in a tabloid newspapers that he had cheated on his then pregnant wife with a prostitute.
However, the evening, and Rooney's off the field difficulties, was overshadowed by the sickening injury to Antonio Valencia; a stark reminder that a footballer's career is a fragile one indeed.
Sir Alex Ferguson made 10 changes to the side that threw away a two-goal advantage at Goodison Park. United welcomed back Rio Ferdinand from injury, while some reserve players such as Javier Hernandez, Darron Gibson, Chris Smalling and Fabio all got a chance to impress.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1) Kuszczak; Brown, Ferdinand, Smalling, Fabio; Fletcher, Gibson; Valencia, Rooney, Park; Hernandez.
Subs: Van der Sar, Evans, O'Shea, Anderson, Giggs, Owen, Macheda.
The strange thing about Valencia's injury was how innocuous it looked. Contact from the Rangers defender Kirk Broadfoot seemed minimal, but players close to the incident quickly realised the severity of the injury and started signalling towards the bench.
Steven Naismith and Kirk Broadfoot continued to wave frantically towards the bench as Valencia laid on the floor writhing in agony.
Broadfoot, who won the ball legitimately, looked distraught with his hands on his head.
As Valencia waited for treatment, United players came to check up on him and comfort him.
Some players (i.e. Rio Ferdinand and Darren Gibson) stuck around briefly and walked away, while a select few; particularly Wayne Rooney, Wes Brown and Javier Hernandez stayed with the injured winger through out.
However, as for the rest of the Manchester United players on the field, some just had quick glancing looks and walked away while others stayed away completely.
Antonio Valencia of Manchester United receives treatment for an injury during the UEFA Champions League Group C match between Manchester United and Rangers at Old Trafford on September 14, 2010 in Manchester, England.
Players from both sides were visibly distressed and upset, many choosing to look away as the medical staff surrounded the winger.
The Ecuadorian, who joined United from Wigan in a £16m deal just last summer, received a lengthy treatment and was eased, very slowly, on to a stretcher.
Supporters from both clubs fell silent in disbelief at the horror show unfolding in front of them.
Speaking on Skysports, Sir Alex Ferguson revealed after the match that Valencia is likely to miss the rest of the season, he said:
"You're talking about [Valencia missing] the rest of the season. It was a really innocuous challenge and you wouldn't have expected anything but as soon as we saw their player waving, we knew it was a bad one."
Antonio Valencia of Manchester United receives oxygen during the UEFA Champions League Group C match between Manchester United and Rangers at Old Trafford on September 14, 2010 in Manchester, England.
Valencia had a protective boot encased around his dislocated ankle, given an oxygen mask and carried from the field.
The winger was given a standing ovation from both sets of fans as the Ecuadorian winger waved in appreciation for the support.
He was stretched-off down the tunnel to a waiting ambulance and then rushed to hospital. He will undergo surgery on the injured ankle today.
Martin Tyler, the Sky commentator, announced live on air that they are not allowed to show replays of the incident and that "its definitely a break below the ankle."
This is because the incident was deemed too "horrific" and upsetting to show, and instead the cameras focused on reactions from both sets of players.
However, this didn't matter as the footage of the injury was available on youtube with in 20 minutes.
WARNING: FOOTAGE ABOVE IS NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED!
As you can see from the footage, Broadfoot clearly wins the ball. But as he lands, Valencia appears to catch his studs on the turf and the defender falls awkwardly on the left ankle.
Its a freakish incident really, there's nothing both players could've done to prevent this horrible injury. Kirk Broadfoot's hip seems to connect on Valencia's standing leg at the worst time possible and the extra-weight may have forced the injury.
Antonio Valencia of Manchester United in action during the UEFA Champions League Group C match between Manchester United and Rangers at Old Trafford on September 14, 2010 in Manchester, England.
As Sir Alex Ferguson pointed out on Sky, the injury is very similar to that suffered by Alan Smith back in 2006.
"He's gone straight to hospital and he will be operated on in the morning," said the Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. "It's a dislocation and a fracture and he's going to be out for a long time. It's a really bad blow for the boy. It's similar to the injury Alan Smith got."
Smith was expected to be out for a full year, but he returned to action in just 8 months. The striker-turned-midfielder, who's now at Newcastle, has admitted in the past that it might have been better to wait longer for the return.
Valencia can come back to playing football, no problem. However, whether he'll be able to recapture his best form for United is another matter all together.
Alan Smith still plays football at the top level, but it's fair to say that he has never been the same player since the injury.
Former Arsenal striker, Eduardo Da Silva, is another classic example.
The Brazilian-born Croatian suffered a double break and a dislocated ankle of the left leg. He was out of action for a full-year, but scored twice on his return against Cardiff in the FA cup. Sadly, he never quiet recovered his old self and was sold by his manager, Arsene Wenger, to Shakhtar Donetsk in July 2010.
Let's hope Antonio Valencia can come back stronger than ever; he deserves to as he's a very humble, likeable chap. I would like to wish him a speedy recover from this terrible injury.