Rio Ferdinand was quick to laud Antonio Valencia for his bustling performance during Manchester United’s first leg 1-0 win over FC Rostov in the Europa League last 16.
The Ecuadorian, deployed as a right wing back, was a relentless force going forward all evening against the Russian side, steaming forward at will in a game that otherwise lacked any discernible tempo.
Ferdinand took to social media to single out praise for the often unsung 31-year-old following another effervescent display on the right hand side.
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) March 16, 2017
It is no surprise that Valencia – always determined to bomb forward under any circumstances, even if an actual tank was steaming towards him – immediately thrived as a right wing back. Rostov’s deeply set defensive line meant that there were no wide forces coming in the other direction, rendering Valencia essentially free to drive forward at will, and it was telling that Man United’s opener – a Juan Mata tap in following a Henrikh Mkhitaryan cross and a Zlatan Ibrahimovic flick – came down the avenue he had continually exploited all evening.
His presence further forward also handed the likes of Mata and Mkhitaryan more space to delve into, with the Ecuadorian’s relentless power and energy drawing defenders further wide all game. This was textbook Valencia, and supporters will know that more of the same it set to come from United’s most consistent player this season.