Antonio Valencia is set to call time on his glittering decade long spell at Manchester United in the summer, it has been revealed.
Valencia signed for United back in 2009 from Wigan Athletic and up until last season, he was a regular in the starting XI. Having initially signed for the club as a barnstorming winger, he was immense in his first 3 seasons at the club. Having won his first Premier League title in 2011, the Ecuadorian then took his own game up to the next level.
Despite his side losing out on the Premier League to Manchester City by virtue of goal difference, Valencia had a magnificent season individually. He was one of the club’s best players that season, and rightfully won the club’s esteemed Sir Matt Busby Player Of The Year award.
Some might say that was when he peaked. The next season, he requested a change to the legendary no.7. It never really worked out for him though, as his form and confidence suffered a massive dip. He ended up switching back to his original number 25 at the end of the season. However, his form never really recovered and he found himself in and out of the team.
Then, all of a sudden United suffered a right-back crisis. Injuries took their toll on the squad at the time and Valencia was forced to play there as cover. Looking back on it now, the crisis for the club turned out to be his lucky break. The Ecuadorian rediscovered his best form, and became a crucial player for them at full-back.
His displays were consistent – consistently good too. When Jose Mourinho took over, Valencia became a key player to the Portuguese. He was arguably one of the club’s best player under Mourinho in his first season, and United won the Europa League and League cup. Many fans began calling him the best right-back in the Premier League. After Wayne Rooney left the club at the start of last season, Valencia was even handed the captain’s armband while Michael Carrick wasn’t playing.
However, last season, it slowly started to become evident that he was slowing down. Injuries began hampering his career. A fallout with Mourinho in the summer after he returned back from the summer well over-weight also saw him lose favor in the eyes of the manager. He was dropped in favor of Ashley Young and Diogo Dalot, and his niggling injuries meant he couldn’t really do anything to fight for his place again.
Since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over from Mourinho, it has been pretty much the same story. He has only made 8 appearances this season and was rumored to be eager for a move away in order to keep his career going. There was still a chance for United to extend his contract, but it started to look unlikely. Now, it has been all but confirmed that the 33-year-old will leave the club in the summer.
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If United were going to extend his contract, the option to do so should’ve been taken up on Friday. However, the club did not do so, and shortly after, Valencia tweeted a picture talking about how he was honored to play for United for a decade.
“Lago Agrio is a very humble town in Ecuador,” he tweeted. “When I was a child, I never imagined travel to Europe [sic]. Thanks to God for letting me play 10 years in the best club in the world: @ManUtd. Now I am focused on my recovery so I can end the season playing at Old Trafford!
Ahead of United’s 3-2 win over Southampton yesterday, Solskjaer paid tribute to Valencia for his brilliant service to the club over the years. “He’s not 100 per cent fit, he’s had a fantastic career here at United and in England,” the Norwegian said.
“He’s one of the only Premier League winners left in the dressing room.
“It depends on if he gets on the pitch in the next few months. He’s the captain and a great servant to the club so hopefully I can get him on the pitch to show what he can do.”
Valencia may not be considered a United legend, but the defender has been a magnificent servant for the club over the years. He will leave having won two Premier League titles, an F.A Cup, a League Cup and the Europa League.