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Nani Or Valencia? Who Should Be United’s First Choice Right Winger?

It’s the most fiercely fought battle for a place more so than any others. The right hand side of Manchester United’s midfield for the past 2 years has commanded consistency and no slip ups. 

It’s the most fiercely fought battle for a place more so than any others. The right hand side of Manchester United’s midfield for the past 2 years has commanded consistency and no slip ups.

It has been contested for by the tricky Portuguese Nani and the ever reliable Antonio Valencia but the question is who wins? There is a debate and a claim for both players to have a firm claim to the position. Valencia is powerful, honest, hardworking and fantastic delivery but Nani is a match winner. He can produce a moment of magic, beat 4 or 5 players and do something spectacular but can also be very frustrating.

This rivalry started when Cristiano Ronaldo finally left for the glitz and glamour of his boyhood heroes Real Madrid for a staggering £80 million. Valencia was bought immediately for a fee of around £18m to a lot of raised eyebrows who had anticipated a big name such as Franck Ribery. Real Madrid at the time were also keen to acquire the young Ecuadorian’s signature.

When he did sign, I myself was not overcome with optimism. I did often at the time question this signing as after all it is a big step up coming from relegation candidates Wigan Athletic to Premier League champions United, not to mention replacing a star such as Ronaldo . I was sceptical after he didn’t quite set the world alight when he first featured for United but he eventually won me and all fans over with his ruthless displays and superb work rate.

He’s no Ronaldo for sure. His wing abilities are quite one dimensional as he prefers to opt to unnerve the defender while using a quick shimmy to gain a yard before producing a devastating cross into the box. Some may call it simple but it is very effective. He likes to link up play and combine for quick one-twos with his full back. He will not go past 3 or 4 players and rifle in a 30 yard screamer but has brilliant work ethic giving great protection to his full back. His crossing no doubt is his best asset and has been the best United have had since the days of ol’ Golden Balls himself David Beckham was at Old Trafford.

Valencia is not a player who will gather the spotlight. He is quite an unsung hero at Manchester United and 9 times out of 10 will prove a pivotal player for United in a match. Quite a reserved character even shy at times remains such a consistent figure in the United team but the my favourite moment of Valencia was no doubt the Chelsea home game last season where he left Ashley Cole on his backside for most of the game. He absolutely dominated the so called ‘best left back in the world’ for the whole game. It was a sheer joy to watch.

In contrast Nani is quite the different player. When Nani is in the right frame of mind and is switched on he is devastating and torture for a full-back. The question is though: which Nani will it be that shows up? You will either get a match winning performance or a frustrating afternoon from the young Portuguese prodigy. He will cut inside and dribble past 4 or 5 players and produce a driving shot into the top corner as we saw against Chelsea or he will give the ball away and waste opportunities. To say he is unpredictable is quite an understatement but this season seems to have made huge strides.

Since his big £17 million switch to United 4 years ago Nani has been in Ronaldo’s shadow and endured a tough time at Old Trafford. Since the departure of his countryman he seems to have relished stepping up to the plate and being counted for but still frustrates in doses. His assist statistics are absolutely phenomenal to say the least and the 2010-11 season was when we saw the real Nani until a horrible injury at Anfield effectively ended his season. He never regained his form after the injury and with the return of Antonio Valencia in the run-in it made it increasingly difficult to retain his place in the side.

In comparison to Ronaldo, Nani has been described as quite a shy character and not at all in the spotlight which surprised everyone and at times also quite a childish character with a really high pitched laugh. Nani has certainly stepped out of that Ronaldo-wannabe style and has his own agenda and doesn’t possess the arrogance of the latter and his theatrics seemed to have been dealt with than were embarrassing in recent seasons. He has matured immensely and Sir Alex Ferguson seems to have been a key factor in keeping him grounded.

The question is who is the better overall player for Manchester United on our right side of midfield?

For me it’s a difficult one. I’m a huge fan of Valencia but this season Nani has improved even more so than last and could be a key figure when players are misfiring. He is a huge goal threat from the wing and can produce – something out of nothing – something spectacular. His goal against Stoke is proof of this.

But Valencia is such a force on the right wing. He is astonishingly consistent and rarely disappoints. He is wasted playing full-back and needs games on the wing. He is a selfless player and will always give 100% work rate for the team. That’s a simple quality to have, but it’s an effective one and when he drops his little shimmy to the side of a defender, he is so quick at whipping balls into the area for Javier Hernandez and co.

Last season Nani played games on the left wing if Valencia did indeed start but was not up to scratch playing on the left side as his preferred position is the right but he likes to interchange with Ashley Young this season at times. Ferguson himself seems to eye Valencia as his preferred man trusting him more so with defensive duties in particular even despite the fact he’s not yet at full fitness this season after an injury suffered at the Copa America. It will be hugely interesting to see who he now favours with Nani’s blistering form. Is he too good to drop at the moment? Rest assure both players can’t play every game.

I was convinced this season I wanted Valencia starting but with Nani’s blistering start to the season it’s a headscratcher. Not that we should be complaining as we have two unbelievably good wingers. The strength of depth prevails again.

Submitted by Football Friends


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