Antonio Valencia is fully fit and raring to go for Manchester United’s clash with Newcastle United on Saturday after being handed a rest during the international break.
The full-back, who normally captains Ecuador on long distance excursions to South America, did not have any international commitments this time around following his country’s failure to qualify for next year’s World Cup.
And Valencia, speaking to United Review, has made note of just how important having a proper break can be.
“It was very important for me to have a week off so I could renew my energy levels and to switch off a little from the football, you could say, of having played a lot of games,” he told United Review.
“And then you come back keener and even more excited at the prospect of the league getting under way again.
“It’s been a welcome change not having to travel away this time with the national team. We’re talking about really long trips of around 16 hours, which can be pretty tiring but, this time, I had the chance to not travel and instead get some rest along with my family.”
Mourinho noted last season that Valencia, now 32, cannot play every single game, prompting murmurs of Man United expressing interest in Serge Aurier, who eventually joined Tottenham Hotspur instead.
And the 54-year-old, in response, has started to hand the Ecuadorian one game every week rather than two – a policy he has ignored just once when Valencia started against Liverpool, Benfica and Huddersfield Town in the space of a week.
Needless to say, his performance against the latter lacked its usual firepower and verve going forward. Even machines like Valencia need protecting and preserving to keep them capable of competing at the highest tempo.
Much has been made of Mourinho’s need for a proper first choice left-back, but he will also need to start considering players capable of sharing the load with Valencia as he enters the latter stages of his career.