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11th Sep 2017

You really have to question if Michael Owen has ever seen Antonio Valencia play

Conan Doherty

Antonio Valencia first played right back for United in 2011.

Since then, he has lined out at full back over 100 times for the club. He’s not deputising there. That’s where he plays.

This is the fourth season in-a-row now where he’s been the Manchester United right back. Not filling in for injury or a stop-gap until they get to the transfer market, he’s just the number one choice in that position.

United have signed the Italian first choice full back in the time since Valencia became established in that role but, funnily enough, Antonio Valencia is still the club’s right back. Matteo Darmian has actually played more games on the left and at centre back than he has in his preferred right back slot. Why? Because Antonio Valencia is better.

Who else is there really out there for Jose Mourinho to bring in? Whatever you think of the United manager, he bloody well knows defenders and, in the Ecuador native, he has pure speed, unbreakable strength, a relentless engine and an experienced player who knows how to play where he’s playing.

“I think Antonio Valencia is a top player,” Owen, who was brought to Old Trafford during the same window as Valencia, said about his old team mate.

“But he is playing out of position and against a top team, perhaps even he could be found out. I think that’s a worry there.”

There are a number of points to be made here, there generally is after Michael Owen fumbles the mic.

Antonio Valencia had a couple of decent seasons further up the pitch but his position now isn’t stopping him from attacking. He still gets into those positions, he’s still crucial for United on the right.

He’s not really doing anything when he joins in with the attacks that suggests he needs to be there all the time. Wide players are different nowadays. They need to be able to cut inside, they need to be able to unlock defences with a pass, Valencia still fits the old-style Fergie winger and he’s still looking to power past players and drill the ball into the box. He can still do that but he can do it because he has Mata there with him.

What’s the actual suggestion here rather than just throwing your hands into the air and saying he’s playing out of position? If you don’t think Valencia should be where he is, you’re obviously planning a rejig of the team. If you really think Valencia needs to play further forward, the solution is really to bring Darmian into the team in place of Mata or Mkhitaryan and that’s a grim idea.

This is just one of those lines that people throw out there now without any real thought behind its consequences because the most valid argument – and the only real point which needs to be made – is the fact that Valencia is a brilliant right back.

He’s a better right back than he ever was a right winger. He’s got everything you need to play in that position and when you look at it relatively – in his case, the entire world – who is really that much better than him?

City just spent 50 million on Kyle Walker.

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