With Antonio Valencia set to miss the rest of the season – a minimum of 5-6 months plus rehabilitation time means it’s likely that he’ll be back for pre-season next summer – Manchester United will now look to the rest of the squad to make up the difference.
Even if you allow for United’s supposed parsimony in the last few transfer windows, there’s no doubt that Valencia brought something special to the table. His pace and delivery meant that he was always a handful for the opposing full back, and while he doesn’t have the best shot in the world he can chip in with a few goals during the course of the season.
So United now need pace, goals, trickery and crosses from the right flank. Who will provide them?
Here are the usual suspects:
Nani: The obvious choice – he thrived in the second half of last season playing on the right flank, and has started there this season. He’ll be the main man on the flanks, but he’s also a good shout on the left flank.
Park: The South Korean Energiser Bunny, he can run all day and can (sometimes) score a few goals too. A more defensive winger than Valencia or anyone else on this list, can play on both left and right flanks.
Fabio / Rafael: The young full-backs can easily be deployed on the wings (on their respective flanks). They have pace, technique, can defend a bit and are technically quite astute. They lack the experience though, and that would count against them. Then again, exactly WHEN are they supposed to gain experience? Not in one-off Champions League games, surely.
Obertan: Didn’t do enough last season to merit an immediate promotion to the starting lineup, but he’ll definitely get his chance as Ferguson rotates the squad. If he is to establish himself at United this is his best chance – other players on this list have either already established themselves or have their primary roles in different positions. Obertan must grab this chance, or he’ll have to run the risk of being replaced.
Giggs: Yes, he’ll play, but not as many games Ferguson would ideally want him to play.
Those are the choices being discussed, and Nani / Park look to be the best right / left combo with Obertan / Giggs backing them up. While I would give the twins a greater role this season in the team, it would again be in the full-back positions and they will most likely get their share of games as long as they stay fit.
However, I think the Nani / Park combo doesn’t provide the creative spark or force full backs to sit back the way Valencia / Nani would, so here’s another suggestion: Javier Hernandez.
Chicarito good at coming in from the left, he’s fast, he’s skillful, he’s got a good shot and playing on the wing for a while (not a permanent move) allows him to use more of his footballing talents by driving forward with the ball. He can play on the left with Nani on the right and Rooney up front in a 4-3-3, with Berbatov joining him if United go 4-4-2.
It’s not orthodox, but if the team needs it, and if we’re not signing anyone else, this could be the best way to get Chicarito some much needed games as well as bring in pace and creativity to replace the hole Valencia’s injury has created in the team.
What do you think? Who should United play on the wings?