Man Utd Club Focus - Threat on the wings could fire United to Premier League title
With Monday night's victory over Fulham, Manchester United moved three points clear of neighbours City at the top of the Premier League table. Key once again was the influence of United's wide men.
Throughout the season there have been injuries at different times to all three of United's flying wingers, Antonio Valencia, Luis Nani and Ashley Young. But as the run-in heats up, Sir Alex Ferguson is about to get his full complement of options back together on the flanks.
Young started the campaign in blistering form that included his two fine strikes against Arsenal. He was playing with freedom and looked a constant menace in running at opposition defences but suffered a dip in form before an ankle injury halted his progress in his first season since joining the club from Aston Villa. Young however has rediscovered his earlier form in recent weeks, scoring vital goals against Tottenham in a difficult away fixture, and looking more like the threat he can be.
Nani was voted United's Players’ Player of the Season last year, and his good form was reflected in his shortlisting for the FIFA Ballon d'Or in November. He started the campaign well, including a man of the match performance against Chelsea in September, but has struggled for form and fitness since United's game at the Emirates towards the end of January. The Portuguese needs time on the pitch to gain the consistency that will boost his performances, and allow him to deliver the telling contributions he is capable of.
Valencia meanwhile missed the start of the season through an ankle injury suffered in the Copa America. He returned to the United side at right-back and it wasn't until the Christmas period that his form on the right wing really took off. A hamstring injury kept the former Wigan Athletic player out for another month, but he returned in the 5-0 win at Wolves with a goal and two assists. His explosive pace puts his opponents on the back foot, creating space for his forwards to meet his deliveries. Valencia also possesses great upper body strength that enables him to guard the ball well and maintain possession.
Against Fulham Valencia was always a danger while Young had a strong game on the left wing, providing the cross from which Rooney scored the winner. Nani is closing in on a return to action, and with all three options at his disposal, Ferguson will be hoping that his wingers rise to the challenges they ought to set each other in competing for a place in the line-up. If they are all able to raise their game they could provide the ammunition needed to secure the title.
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