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The Right Kind of Problem – Who plays there?

by Sam Peoples

After already having Nani, Valencia and Park Ji Sung on his roster, SAF went out and bought another winger in Ashley Young. To some, this was a strange decision considering the lacking midfield that United had but to others, this was an obvious choice: Young is fast, attack minded, consistent and with dangerous set piece deliveries, he can provide and score himself. He is primarily a left winger but can play on either wing, such is his versatility. The question begs now – who is the right player to start on the right wing? It is the best situation a manager can find himself in in reality, a far cry from a bad situation, but sometimes making the right choices are the most difficult decisions to make. When all these players are fit the question is who will be the first choice right winger? Let’s take a look at the candidates, keeping an eye on their Premier League statistics from the past 2 years.

Photo: Alex Livesey (Getty Images)


Year Games Goals Assists
10/11 33 9 14
09/10 23 4 6

Nani is a great player, there can be no doubt, with his natural game always looking to attack with the ball. He has improved his final product over the last few years and has now started making better decisions, sometimes he will even look for the pass before trying the shot from all angles now, a feat that seemed impossible at points in previous seasons. He’s quick, can dribble and is strong; he is a full backs nightmare. The only downside of Nani is his reluctance to track back although in the games against City, West Brom and Spurs, he is starting to look like he is tracking back a bit more. His free kicks aren’t the best as he either smashes them into the wall but with Rooney seemingly taking a bigger stranglehold on free kicks this year, that shouldn’t be a problem. The major disadvantage with Nani is that he is either hot or cold, when Nani is in form there are only a couple of players better than him in the world but when he has his head down and his shoulders slumped, he is non-existent. It is clear that Nani is more likely to get a goal or an assist but all 4 can produce moments of magic. On to the next contender…

Photo: Andrew Yates (Getty Images)

Antonio Valencia

Year Games Goals Assists
10/11 10 1 2
09/10 34 5 7

When we signed Tony from Wigan, I was a bit sceptical but he has been a breath of fresh air. He is the reason why Rooney scored so many headers two years ago, his delivery was fantastic and consistent. He is not the strongest at shooting and doesn’t shoot from outside the box but he is quick and his strength is unreal. He is a one-trick pony but he is simply playing to his strengths, like any footballer tries to do when playing. When he returned from injury after the horrific ankle break he picked up against Rangers, he was a driving force in the team to help us reclaim the league. He also played fantastic in the semi-final against Schalke in Old Trafford and tore probably the best left back in the world apart when we played Chelsea. Ashley Cole has had success over Ronaldo and Nani in the past but he had no such luck coming up against Valencia. He is always going to be a consistent performer in the team and rarely has a bad game. The major pro of Valencia in the team is how well he has previously linked up with Rooney providing brilliant crosses to the England International on more then one occasion and it is clear that Rooney loves playing with Valencia supporting the strikers, where as when he plays with Nani he often finds it frustrating and this is obvious by how he reacts on the pitch. The major weakness to Valencia is it seems that he only has one foot. He completely avoids using his left foot as he obviously never developed it into a decent standard when he was younger. I imagine it’s a lot like my left foot, useless. I think SAF loves what he brings to the team and does seem to favour him to start if fit. His defensive game is much more advanced than that of Nani and SAF is obviously a big fan of it. His versatility has even seen him slot in at right-back when needed. His professional attitude towards the game brings him a lot of admirers and even if he struggles to crack a smile, many a time we crack a smile for him…

Photo: Alex Livesey (Getty Images)

Park Ji Sung

Year Games Goals Assists
10/11 15 5 3
09/10 17 3 1

Let’s face it. Ji Sung Park is not as good as the Valencia, Young or Nani. He has built a game around supporting the defence rather than the attack but he is still a good player who has the work rate that we would love all our players to have. His boundless energy is the underlining factor as to why he remains a United player: he bites at the heels of the opposition and forces them to move the ball around quicker, inevitably leading to mistakes. Not a player that SAF would start against Bolton or West Brom but against Arsenal or Chelsea, he always gets the nod as he brings a calm to the team with the extra man in defence helping against the better opposition. When we need someone to step it up in the big games, he is the man who doesn’t disappoint. He gives everything to the team and often can pop up with important goals against big rivals, such as the Arsenal game last season. He can also play on both wings, the same as Nani and Young. He will no doubt put in a shift for the team but he is not as skilled as the other wingers in the squad, yet what he lacks in skill he more than makes up for in heart and determination, which is why his name will always be in the framework.

Photo: Alex Livesey (Getty Images)

Ashley Young

Year Games Goals Assists
10/11 34 7 7
09/10 37 5 7

Young is a new signing and we know he can play on either wing, having showed already what great versatility he has as a player. He is a great winger, combining well the defensive and attacking aspects of his game to create a dynamic and fluid style of play. He has a stunning delivery and can deliver of a set piece or score a free kick, an attribute that United has lacked consistently since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo. He has done fantastic so far since he has joined the club but is more likely to be starting on the left rather than the right, with the threat of cutting sometimes bamboozling the defenders into submission. When there is a injury or just a shuffle in the tactics, he can easily play on the right and produce fantastic football and his versatility is probably one of his strongest assets as a player. At the tender age of 26, he is just coming into his footballing prime now and playing alongside world class players at United will bring out the best in Ashley Young. Could he turn into a world class player? Most definitely…


This is sure to give Sir Alex one or two problems, but they are the good type of problems which nobody can complain about. He will more than likely rotate the squad depending on the games that we are going to play. If he wants a winger who will stick to the right side and deliver the ball into danger areas, then Valencia is his man. If he wants a more creative player who will cut in and attack the central defenders and look for the shot or the killer pass, then Nani/Young will get the nod. If he wants someone who will run themselves into the ground and put in a unreal shift and play against a narrow formation, then Park is the man for him. Either way Sir Alex will have a headache in the upcoming games and when everybody’s fit and it will be interesting to see what the great manager has up his sleeve (usually an Ace).

Author: Stephen King

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