It's no news that Antonio Valencia has struggled for form this season. While an unconventional choice for the legendary No. 7 jersey at the start of the season, most Manchester United fans recognized his amazing talent and work ethic, not to mention his impact on games last season. However, it is almost typically "Tony" that he should say as much in an interview to United Review, before the game against Reading.
When asked how he rated his season so far, the no-nonsense reply was:
It's not been quite the season I would have hoped for on a personal front. I think the injuries I've had have held me back a bit. I still get the odd twinge from the last injury I had to my leg and that has perhaps affected my progress slightly. That isn't to say I haven't enjoyed the season because I have very much.
This is surprising - Tony has not suffered from major injury since his horrific ankle a couple years back. He was, of course, great last season which was post this injury. It's possible he's referring to his hip-flexor tweak, something Sir Alex alluded to earlier in the season. Valencia tried to play through it, but was finally rested for close to a month.
However, our flying winger was certainly bullish about the remaining games:
I hope so. I hope I get the chance to be involved in as many games as possible and if I'm picked I'm determined to grab my opportunities and do my best for my team-mates, the manager and the fans.
Tony's game, of course, is that dying style of the traditional touchline-hugging winger. Without great variety, he depends on strength and pace to get past his opponent in a straight dash down to the corner flag. It is entirely possible, then, that a game so based on physical attributes might suffer with a nagging injury. While he has been using his left leg of late, notably for the assist for Shinji Kagawa's first goal against Norwich, it's safe to say that's not why he's in the squad.
Our No. 7 is unconventional simply because he is almost the anti-thesis of the legendary George Best. Without being too disrespectful, he has little natural skill for an elite player, and more of a bulldog-like determination to succeed. While we may be doing quite well in the league, the inconsistent form of our wingers means that we need the ever-consistent Valencia more than ever, especially with some big decisions coming up in the summer transfer window. Hopefully, he'll give us some cheer against his bunny Ashley Cole in the FA Cup Quarterfinal Replay, and beyond.