Antonio Valencia‘s form has been about as inspiring as David Cameron’s question time recently but that could all be set to change in the coming weeks.
When you take a look back at Valencia’s performances from 2011/12 that saw him named the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year, there is something there that simply hasn’t been so far this season – Rafael.
Their partnership on the right flank was so important to Valencia’s form. Nobody can play as well alongside Valencia as the Brazilian can and they seem to get the best out of each other because they are so similar in attack.
When either is in possession, the other would run on the overlap and their. Like the best partnerships in football, they always know what the other is going to do. They compliment each other so well. Take Manchester United’s 4-0 victory over Aston Villa as an example.
Example 1 – Beautiful link up play with a smart one-two between the pair almost lead to goal when Valencia’s drilled cross meets Welbeck but his shot is tipped over.
Example 2 – Even when Rafael has his back to goal, Valencia still makes the run and inevitably the Brazilian finds the pass with a delicate back heel.
Rafael is fit and ready to play against Bayer Leverkusen this week and it should be music to Valencia’s ears.
In his absence, Smalling and Jones just don’t offer the same sort of partnership as Rafael does. They aren’t natural right backs and it is obvious. Gary Neville made the right-back spot his own because it is a specialist position, players can’t just drop into the role and expect to make it their own.
So, while Rafael’s return to fitness is fantastic as we will have our first choice right-back again, the fact that it could potentially help to bring the best out of Valencia again is equally as exciting.