CSKA Moscow has gone unbeaten in 13 matches across all competitions at home this season. But despite this staggering statistic, the current Russian Premier League leaders have had their share of defensive woes; they’ve only managed to keep a single clean sheet in their last eight games. On Wednesday, Antonio Valencia and Manchester United will try to make it nine without a goose egg when the Red Devils visit Moscow for a vital Champions League group stage battle.
While it’s unlikely that our favorite Ecuadorian winger will get the start (he’s stuck behind Matteo Darmian in van Gaal’s side), here are five reasons why we think he should be called upon for club and country (rather than solely destroying hopes and dreams in CONMEBOL qualifiers):
Because he is the key to beat CSKA.
Juan Mata said so. It’s as simple as that.“I’ve been told that Antonio Valencia scored the winner for United the last time the team visited CSKA, so we will ask him for the secret to beat them because they haven’t lost at home this season, both in the group stage and in the previous rounds.”
Because he did, in fact, score the game winner in United’s last trip to Moscow.
In the 2009-10 UCL campaign – the only other meetings between the two sides – the Manchester side flew home with a W thanks to this solid 86th-minute strike from Toño.
Because he is the fastest player.
Because David De Gea, the pride and joy and prodigy of Spanish goalkeeping, said that Valencia is the fastest fútbolista he’s ever played with. And apparently he has a point; according to a FIFA study originally published in Mundo Deportivo, Valencia clocked in at a whopping 35.1 km/hr (21.8 mi/hr), making him the fastest player in the world.
Because how in your right mind could you possibly bench a man who is on this run of form?
He’d be a spark off the bench, no doubt, but this assist to Felipe Caicedo against Argentina has me desperate for more.
Because when it comes down to it, he’s the ultimate team player.
His unselfish passing and ball movement, willingness to play at right back despite his preference for other positions, and capacity for getting back and winning tackles speak to his ability to work as a part of a unit. He grew up helping his mom sell drinks outside of Lago Agrio’s Carlos Vernaza stadium in northeastern Ecuador before collecting empty bottles for his dad; it’s safe to say that we know without a shadow of a doubt that he has enough resilience and hunger to continue on as a footballer in his prime past 30.
Hell, you just know his trabajo en equipo is real when he’s even willing to take a happy picture with the man who’s been lauded as one of the worst signings in United history: Marouane Fellain.