Antonio Valencia’s goodbye closes another chapter of the Sir Alex Ferguson era


Antonio Valencia is Manchester United’s longest-serving player, however, he has not been offered a new contract and will leave the club this summer. Solskjaer handed him 15 minutes on Sunday in what will be his last appearance at Old Trafford and wearing the clubs badge.

Signed by Sir Alex Ferguson from Wigan Athletic in 2009, Antonio Valencia has been a model professional for the majority of his time at the club. Under the great Scot, he originally played on the right-wing and was a key member of the squad in the title-winning seasons of 2010/11 and 2012/13.

In between, he picked up the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award in 2011/12 after making 38 appearances for the first-team, scoring four goals, but registering a staggering 16 assists.

Valencia was rewarded with being offered the historic number seven shirt, however after a tough 2012/13, he asked to switch back to his former number, 25, for the following campaign.

As Ferguson departed and other managers took the reins, Valencia’s influence dwindled as he was converted into a right-back. It was only when Jose Mourinho took over in 2016 that we saw the best of the Ecuadorian once again.

In 2016/17 Valencia was outstanding, making 43 appearances, lifting the League Cup and Europa League. His performances were also ratified by his peers as he won the Players’ Player of the Year at the end of season awards.

After Michael Carrick announced his retirement, Valencia was made club captain for the 2018/19. However, injuries and off-field antics hampered his opportunities and the club declined to offer him a new deal.

This shouldn’t mask what a fabulous person Valencia has been for the club over the last 10 years, a real favourite of Sir Alex Ferguson’s and someone who demonstrates the values of the club wholeheartedly.

It says a lot about their bond that when Ferguson stepped down as manager in 2013, the Ecuadorian’s performances took a complete nosedive. He only really rediscovered his best form in 2016/17 and even that was in a deeper position at right-back.

It was a sad day on Sunday, watching Valencia walk off the pitch for the last time. It feels more significant than a usual end of season departure. Perhaps because as much as he played for the badge on the shirt, he also played for the man who brought him to the club.

Sir Alex loved Valencia and Valencia certainly loved Sir Alex. A Manchester United squad without the skipper is like another piece of the Sir Alex Ferguson jigsaw being put back in the box.

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But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made the right call, taking the emotion out of it, Valencia’s time is up. And as easy as it is to shed a small tear at the prospect of the squad now only consisting of four players from United’s title-winning era, the Norwegian has to wipe the floor clean and start fresh in order to be successful.