Updates from Tuesday, Aug. 12
Manchester United provide an update on Antonio Valencia's status:
Antonio Valencia was withdrawn during the opening minutes of Manchester United's 3-1 victory over Liverpool in the International Champions Cup final, adding slight worry to Louis van Gaal's plans ahead of the Premier League season's start.
Valencia was caught wildly out of position as Raheem Sterling moved toward goal immediately before being substituted. The powerful Ecuadorean completed just eight minutes during the Red Devils' last game of a highly successful U.S. tour and was replaced by new signing Luke Shaw.
Van Gaal explained the reasoning for his player's withdrawal after the match. "Valencia had a feeling in his legs and I said before the game that he had to listen to his body," noted Van Gaal, reported by David McDonnell of the Mirror. "The culmination of this tournament is high and he was clever to step out."
While Valencia's problem doesn't appear too serious, it may provide the new manager with a dilemma heading into Aug. 16's Premier League opener with Swansea.
Valencia performed well in a right wing-back position on tour, a positive sign after he was left to rot in a more defensive right-back position under David Moyes.
The natural winger has the pace and physicality to compete across all areas of the pitch, making him an excellent candidate to start wide in Van Gaal's 3-5-2 formation. If unfit, he may be ousted out of the team by Ashley Young, who emerged as the star of United's trip to America with a string of memorable displays in either wing-back role.
Young started to the left of Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones against Liverpool, switching over to the right side when Valencia departed. He once again worked hard to break up play in an unfamiliar position and bombed forward to send a plethora of dangerous crosses into the box.
Tim Simon of Opta noted Young's quality in this area, something Valencia has lacked during his United career:
Young's string of standout performances—highlighted with his two goals against Real Madrid—will certainly provide Van Gaal with the type of selection headache many couldn't have fathomed when he took over.
Shaw also posted a decent tour and is likely to nail down the left wing-back position once his fitness issues are resolved, per BBC Sport. Should Young continue to perform with the confidence and productiveness shown during pre-season, Valencia may find himself battling to stay in the first team.
The 29-year-old, whose injury niggle coincided with his birthday, won't want to miss out on United's start to the season. Van Gaal is currently assessing his squad ahead of making decisions on potential transfers, meaning any time spent away from the pitch could harm Valencia's longevity at the club, per Teddy Cutler of The Independent.
Nevertheless, United will want the player back as quickly as possible to ensure competition for places remains high.