Solskjaer on Antonio Valencia“He’s still not 100% fit, still working to get back fit.”
“He’s had a fantastic career here at Manchester United and England, and is one of the Premier League winners left in the dressing room. But I’m not sure if Manchester United and Antonio will agree on the next year.”
“It depends if he gets back on the pitch in the next few months but he’s the captain, a great servant to the club so hopefully I can get him on the pitch and show what he can do.”
Judging by these quotes it looks very much like Valencia’s time at the club is over. Getting back now and proving his fitness will be difficult given Luke Shaw’s rise causing the shunting of Ashley Young to right-back. Young is extremely versatile in where he can play and is also much less injury-prone than Valencia, meaning that it’s hard to see where Valencia fits in. Added to the fact that United will surely want to slowly transition Dalot into the right-back spot, it becomes incredibly difficult to see what the benefits are for anyone involved here.
Valencia has been an outstanding servant for United, but perhaps the time has come where it benefits both parties to part ways.
Berbatov on Lukaku“And don’t make the mistake of thinking he has to play central. In modern football many teams play with three upfront and that trio can switch positions and confuse the opposition.”
“Lukaku is capable of using the space really well when he drifts left or right and has made a few assists from those positions.”
“The ball Lukaku played for Lingard against Liverpool, there aren’t many players who can make that pass. It was like watching Xavi or Iniesta! Lukaku is not one-dimensional like some people assume.”
Okay, so crazy Xavi comparisons aside, the most fascinating point that Berbatov makes here is Lukaku’s ability to play out wide. Belgium did not always employ Lukaku centrally during the World Cup, to particular effect in the Brazil game, meaning Lukaku could terrorise physically weak full backs.
Indeed the future for United does not need to be Lukaku or Rashford….it can be both. The downside is the reduction in speed of benching players like Lingard to make room for a more pragmatic presence. In this regard Solskjaer has long appeared to be an idealist.
Solskjaer on Luke Shaw“I don’t know what I’ve done differently,”
“He’s played but it’s him. He’s got another couple of years in him, Luke, and when he decides to drive forward and goes into fifth gear there’s no-one quicker, no-one as sharp.”
“Confidence grows when you play well and I’ve been delighted with his performances.”
The first sentence says it all, ie, Jose ruined a perfectly talented youngster through a bullying mentality. To be fair this appears to be accurate barring one area of disruption.
Shaw has been excellent going forward, yes, but some of his defensive work has been found severely wanting. His positioning and focus has been questionable and there is no doubt that these are characteristics which Mourinho valued highest. These still have not been rectified under Solskjaer. The difference is that Solskjaer can overlook these weaknesses because of his extra emphasis on attack. Sure, Shaw was partially at fault for Crystal Palace’s goal this week…but then he also assisted one of United’s goals and it is in the scoring were Solskjaer will place importance.