Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho will manage Antonio Valencia’s match time this season so as to avoid a burnout.
Over the past few years, Valencia has been one of United’s most consistent performers. The Ecuadorian, though a winger by trade, has managed to successfully establish himself as our first-choice right-back. And since Jose Mourinho’s arrival, Valencia has continued to feature regularly, starting seven matches this season.
However, according to ESPN, Mourinho will carefully select Valencia’s matches amid fears of overworking the 32-year-old.
In retrospect, it seems such a course of action was already being considered last term. While Valencia made 43 appearances in the 2016/17 campaign, he was used in only four of United’s last ten matches. The former Wigan Athletic player’s reduced playing time was reportedly a precaution formulated by United’s medical staff to ensure that Valencia would be fit to start the Europa League final.
The close management of Valencia’s fitness has continued into the new season. The Ecuador international was not involved in either of United’s initial Champions League matches, as well as being left out of our first Carabao Cup tie.
Although some may expect the best players to start every week, it is important to note that Valencia is already well into his thirties. Too much time on the pitch may not only hamper his performances in the short-term, but also impede his ability to maintain a high level of play over the coming years.
The importance of picking and choosing when Valencia plays is exacerbated by the defender’s all-action playing style. Valencia balances defensive duties with lung-busting overlapping forward runs, allowing him to function as an additional attacking outlet. Playing for long periods at a time without the requisite rest would then make Valencia more susceptible to severe injury, potentially jeopardizing his career in the process.
There is, perhaps, an alternative to restricting Valencia’s match-time in a United shirt – retirement from international football. Representing one’s country is a real source of pride for most players. Still, that is not to say that older players have not sacrificed international football in a bid to prolong their careers.
Zlatan is just one recent example. Ibrahimovic, despite still possessing the ability to influence matches at the highest level, retired from the Sweden national team last year. The decision paid dividends for the big Swede as he ended his first season in Manchester with 27 goals in all competitions.
Realistically, Valencia is unlikely to take a similar course of action for now, especially with the World Cup on the horizon. But in the coming years, resting during the two week international breaks may go a long way to managing Valencia’s fitness.