Few men would envy the task of filling Cristiano Ronaldo’s golden slippers. When the Portuguese prima donna eloped from Manchester to Madrid in the summer of 2009, a club accustomed to stepping out with the Premier League’s prom queen could be forgiven for not immediately embracing the wholesome qualities of his replacement..
Doggedly supplying that deficit of glamour with industry and unselfishness since his arrival, Antonio Valencia has forged virtue of necessity and wrought himself a hard-won place in the hearts of the fans. If the Stretford End still secretly dreams of step-overs past, it wakes gladly divorced from the illusion that the value of a final ball depends on any preceding pirouettes.
Investment in the United midfield has been pregnant with rotational pitfalls since Ronaldo’s departure, but with Nani out of favour and new acquisition Shinji Kagawa deployed centrally or wide left, Valencia is currently relieved of credible understudies for his blooming duet with Rafael on the right. With four assists to his credit already in an injury-interrupted start and only a baffling, if hilarious, miskick robbing him of a tap-in against Arsenal two weeks ago, a big haul may be just around the corner for the former Wigan man as the goals flow and fixtures ease for the Reds.
Averaging a gnat’s whisker under three strikes a game since their opening day defeat at Everton, a run comprising (nor, QPR, WHM, rdg) in the next four Gameweeks seems likely to further augment that impressive average. Still smarting from last season’s goal-difference title defeat at the hands of their noisy neighbours, Ferguson has publicly set the pass mark at 100 notches on the goal post this time out and, with four goals and 14 assists last year, Valencia certainly has the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) pedigree to profit from a more ruthless offensive philosophy.
With the likes of Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard and Santi Cazorla somewhat treading water at the pricy end of the midfield spectrum, Fantasy managers may feel more at liberty to chance their arm on less celebrated candidates. Whilst out-and-out wingers have taken something of a back seat to “in the hole” midfield picks thus far, few wide men have access to the quality of the targets Valencia enjoys. Currently priced at 8.6 in FPL (7.9 in the Sky Sports game), the Ecuadorian dynamo looks primed to buck the trend and deliver strong value from out wide as United look to go forth and conquer over the coming weeks.