Transfer deals between Manchester United and Wigan have been few and far between over the years. But there’s little doubt that bringing the then 23 year old Antonio Valencia to Old Trafford at the end of June 2009 has been one of manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s shrewdest ever signings. The Ecuador international was included in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year in his debut season for the club, then grabbed United’s opening goal of the current campaign in the Community Shield 3-1 defeat of Chelsea at Wembley in which he was named Man of the Match. Within a matter of weeks however, the bulk of his season come to an abrupt halt.
Valencia suffered severe ligament damage and a fractured ankle during a Champions League game against Rangers on September 14. The United star opted to stay in Manchester for his rehabilitation rather than return to Ecuador and it appears that as a result he may now return sooner than expected. “He could have gone home but he has put his recovery and the club before anything else” one report stated “he is working extremely hard and believes he could be playing again as soon as mid February.”
The winger has impressed since making a £15 million switch from Wigan Athletic. He was a key figure at Old Trafford last season, scoring five goals and providing nine assists in the Premier League alone. Wayne Rooney had no hesitation in confessing at the time “I couldn’t have scored the amount of goals I have this season without him. He’s been great and the quality of balls he puts in the box for me has been unbelievable.”
Valencia’s return will be a welcome boost for Ferguson whose squad is currently stretched to its limits. Sir Alex has given his winger a huge vote of confidence by recently stating that “I don’t need to buy anyone in the January transfer window. Valencia coming back in February will be like a new signing for us”
At the time of his move to Old Trafford, the explosive winger humbly admitted “I have enjoyed my time at Wigan but I’m thrilled to have the chance to challenge for the biggest honours in club football. Playing in front of 76,000 fans alongside players like Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs will be an amazing experience” he said.
Valencia paid further tribute to his former club by continuing “I hope the fans at Wigan can understand that I am an ambitious guy and a chance like this might never come again for me. I am happy that the club has benefited from the move financially because I owe them such a lot. I have had a great time here.”
The former Wigan favourite will not face his old team on Saturday due to that unfortunate injury but you can rest assured that if he had, Valencia would have received a rousing reception from the visiting Wigan support who still fondly remember his time at the DW Stadium.
How big a difference will Valencia make to United when he returns from injury?