Just a few weeks ago Antonio Valencia appeared to have emerged as a genuine force in the United midfield. After months of uncertainty in Ferguson’s ranks, Fantasy Managers at last had an attacking player that they could turn to as a supplement to Wayne Rooney’s ample returns. The Ecuadorian had served up four goals and four assists in the final couple of months of 2009 and all looked rosey for him and his fantasy owners for the year ahead. Then, against the odds and from nowhere, Nani put himself back in the game.
Alex Ferguson handed the Portuguese winger a starting berth in the same eleven as Valencia in the 3-0 win over Burnley. It wasn’t until the United boss switched Nani to the opposite flank in the 4-0 win over Hull however, that he began to reveal himself as a true prospect. Nani has since thrived on the right-wing in the wins over Hull, Man City and last weekend at the Emirates. This has been achieved at the expense of Valencia who has sat out of all three matches and now faces a battle to regain his starting role.
It’s a huge change in fortunes for Nani – a player who was reported to be offered to Wigan in exchange for Valencia in the Summer and was looking for assurance on his future at Old Trafford just before Christmas. But where does this leave us Fantasy Managers? Back in a world of uncertainty by the looks of things. Ferguson has recently admitted that he faces a dilemma with the two wingers, indicating that he recognises the right-flank as Nani’s preferred and natural position…
“When he plays on the left maybe he does that (over-elaborates) but the right side is his natural position…It is amazing when you talk to the players – they all want him to play. They all think he is fantastic. We are getting consistency from him now. We have a really good player. We wondered if he would feel tired after three games in a week but he never showed that until the last 10 minutes. But it gives me a massive decision now between Nani and Antonio Valencia.”
So far Nani’s fantasy returns have seen three assists in his last two games but with Rooney firing goals from all angles, further assists and even goals could well be in Nani’s locker with regular starts. Priced significantly cheaper than Valencia across the fantasy games (6.5 vs 8.4 in the Fantasy Premier League game), Nani has the edge right now but rotation with Valencia is surely on the cards.
United’s schedule, with Champions League fixtures now looming, hands Ferguson the opportunity to justify resting and rotating the pair and we could see that in action with Portsmouth at Old Trafford this weekend. With a trip to Villa Park on Wednesday, the form of Nani could well be saved for the sterner opposition that awaits in midweek. That would come as a major disappointment for early investors in the Nani bandwagon.
There is of course a chance that Ferguson will unleash the pair of them at times, although we seen that Ferguson is a keen admirer of the workrate of Park on the left, while Giggs is always another option, despite his move to a central role for the main part of this season. There’s just so much uncertainty then, leaving us with little option but to study Ferguson’s selection patterns and attempt to predict which of Valencia or Nani is set to be preferred for the next fixture. It’s a dangerous, frustrating game but then frustration has come hand in hand with Nani ever since he arrived at Old Trafford.