Antonio Valencia has surprised everyone, living up to his right-back role and being arguably the best in his position in the Premier League this season. However, he seems to have bloomed late, at the age of 31, and nobody knows how long this run of form could last for the Ecuadorian, who turns 32 in August. Valencia’s performances have been excellent both defensively and moving forward, particularly the former, and in recent interviews, he expressed just how young he feels.
Valencia’s development has a lot to do with his incredible fitness– the Ecuadorian has a very good record with fitness during his time at Manchester United, which explains his phenomenal physicality on the pitch. For this reason, many people believe Valencia won’t decline as much into his 30s, which is a firm possibility considering the Ecuadorian’s insistence on retaining his core strength and turn of pace.
“I’ve changed in a lot of ways [since then] but with my willingness to keep on training hard, my hunger to keep on improving and my desire to want to remain here at United, I feel like I’m still just 21 years old. I’m thankful to this great institution [the club] which has given me the chance to fulfil my dreams. And, of course, I’ll continue to fight hard to remain here for a bit longer!”
Valencia, once a very poor defender, credits all four Manchester United managers from the past half-decade for his rise from an average right-winger to a top-class right-back. Valencia wants to continue playing at Manchester United for as long as he can.
“Sir Alex would play me at right-back in a few games and I think he gradually began to realise that I could defend. David Moyes also used me in that role in a few games. Then came [Louis] van Gaal and he played me there in a lot of games. I did a good job there and he continued to play me at right-back. Now the gaffer has come here and he’s given me the opportunity to keep working up and down that right-hand side which I’m enjoying.”
Valencia deserves to be in the Premier League team of the season this year, but that doesn’t mean he can remain at the club forever. I certainly hope the club is lining up a replacement for the Ecuadorian this summer, considering the rarity of such a well-rounded player who plies his trade at fullback. United’s reliance on the Ecuadorian is alarming at the moment, with Ashley Young seemingly the main culprit to provide squad depth at fullback.
However, for now, it is nice to have a player who is determined, with a sharp and a smooth edge. Valencia’s numbers do not match the quality of player he has been during his time at United- he had a few rough patches involving injuries, but generally, he has been a great servant to this club, even potentially having a claim to being the club’s next captain. While that’s probably a stretch, I doubt many people have any qualms with Valencia at the moment.