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Timothy Fosu-Mensah: The heir to Antonio Valencia

This past summer Manchester United were once again linked with seemingly every world class player in every position. Manager Jose Mourinho brought in a stalwart striker for the next decade or so in Romelu Lukaku. He looked towards the present with central midfielder Nemanja Matic, even though Spanish international Ander Herrera had a career year last season. One position he didn’t touch? Right back. Across the back line, rumors swirled of bringing in new left backs and central defenders. But never someone at right back. Why is this? Simple. Mourinho has Antonio Valencia, arguably the best right back in the world, and Mourinho knows exactly whom will replace the aging Valencia in the near future: Timothy Fosu-Mensah.

Valencia made his name at Old Trafford originally as a right-winger. Galloping up and down the field, he became a fan favorite for his ability to get back on defence and put in crunching tackles. He chased the ball, even though his job was to carry it up field and help the offense. A few years ago, Valencia transitioned to right back and never looked back. He made the position his own.

Using his “tough as nails” mentality, he has provided enough offense to the midfield through blistering runs and swirling crosses. Never one to back down from a challenge, his courage and attitude has gone a long way in this squad. His most cunning attribute is his consistency. Rarely missing a game or being caught out position, Valencia is a true warrior on the back line. Durable and reliable, everything a manager and supporter wants in a right back.

Sooner or later Antonio Valencia will hang up his cleats or cut down on his playing time. Manager Jose Mourinho clearly has a plan in mind for when this happens. That plan is 6′ 1″ Dutch teenager, Timothy Fosu-Mensah.

Recently loaned to Crystal Palace, Fosu-Mensah can play a plethora of positions. Being dispatched a center defensive mid, Fosu-Mensah can go box to box with the best of them. At center back, he can hold his own with the most physical attackers in the English Premier League. At just 19, it’s easy to forget that Fosu-Mensah is still extremely young and still finding his way in football. Continuing the carousel of positions, Mourinho has used him to spell Valencia at right back.

Like Valencia, Fosu-Mensah possesses the intangibles that build a world class right back. Watching both players play at the position, it’s clear to see exactly what those are. Valencia and Fosu-Mensah are consistently willing to put their bodies on the line in a last-ditch effort to guard the goal from an opponents shot. While Fosu-Mensah is bigger and stronger, both players share the same burst of speed and acceleration. Valencia is much more productive in terms of offensive contribution, however, he also transitioned from a winger. Fosu-Mensah has all the tools to one day match Valencia’s offensive output. For all of Valencia’s advantage on the offensive side of the pitch, Fosu-Mensah makes up this deficit with his physical superiority and versatility.

In comparison, Fosu-Mensah represents the new age of player versatility while Valencia provides a throw back to days when players played through injury and illness. For their stark differences, they’re similar in so many ways. If Fosu-Mensah continues to improve at Crystal Palace, once he returns to Old Trafford then Valencia will surely leave the right back position in good hands as Fosu-Mensah settles into the understudy role. Fosu-Mensah is the clear heir apparent to Valencia at right back and with the recent transfer inactivity for that position at Old Trafford, it’s clear that manager Jose Mourinho agrees.

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