Jose Mourinho should be offloading Antonio Valencia
Manchester United secured second place in the Premier League, this season, a massive improvement from last year's lowly sixth place finish. Jose Mourinho has already indicated he wants to add more quality to the squad. Once again, the Red Devils have a busy summer ahead.
Mourinho's latest feuds mean some players could be exiting Old Trafford. Anthony Martial is suspected of a move away from the club, possibly to Italy, as he wasn't given deserved game time this season. Juan Mata and Ander Herrera also grace the 'leave list' for the same reason.
Luke Shaw is another who has drawn Jose's wrath. His league start against West Ham was the season's only one. That's very low game time for a 22-year-old England international. Mourinho has raked Shaw over the coals several times in the press and once quite openly during a post-match press conference.
Ashley Young, originally not a full-back, has won the Portuguese's trust and made the left wing his home. Thus, Shaw is also a prime candidate to leave. If the former Southampton star does, Jose's shopping list will include the following.
- a left-back
- a central midfielder
- a right winger
- a right-back
The right is United's weaker side. There is winger turned fullback, Antonio Valencia, a demotivated fringe player, Matteo Darmian, the underused Mata and whichever surplus left winger by trade drew the short straw on any given matchday.
When Jose arrived, few players were quick to grasp the ex-Chelsea boss' style. Valencia was one. While most struggled to settle, the Ecuadorian showed decisive leadership. He was also hailed as the best right-back in the world by his manager. Supporters warmed to 'Tony V', as well. The stats were less kind. He provided one assist on the whole season, less than Spurs young sensation Kyle Walker-Peters managed in three appearances.
Crossing ability is the primary qualification for a starting fullback. Valencia is strong going forward. He provides width. What's the use, though, when he cannot put the ball into the opposition's box? Typically, he delivers a short cross inches away from the touchline which eventually gets intercepted or cleared by opposition's defender. Statistically, the occasional captain needs two games to provide one successful cross. On the other hand, Bayern's Joshua Kimmich offers one up every half of football.
Nor can Valencia use his left foot. Too often, he allows defenders to recover position by turning to get the ball on his preferred right foot. He also gets trapped in the defensive third or makes poor clearances for the same reason. His other major weakness is positional awareness.
Finally, there's his positional awareness. He never knows what he's going to do with the ball before it arrives.
Further down the pecking order is Matteo Darmian. The Italian international was signed during Louis van Gaal's reign after one strong season with Torino and the Italian national side. He made 28 largely positive appearances in his first season. Mourinho has favoured Valencia, however. Darmian has made just four appearances this season. Unless he's a closet voyeur, he must want a move away to find playing time.
Mourinho has more talent than he needs on the left. He is shorthanded on the right. A name player in an attacking role, be it Gareth Bale, Antoine Griezmann or Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, would provide more impetus and width. But there needs to be a right back who can overlap or fill the space when the forward player cuts inside. And he must be able to find players in the box. That fullback isn't Antonio Valencia. Mourinho needs a new option.