Manchester United announced on Saturday that Antonio Valencia had agreed a new three-year deal with the club.
It was a shock to some, given the Ecuadorian’s alarming dip in form following the heady days directly after his move from Wigan Athletic.
At that time, Valencia was a fleet-footed and powerful winger who used his pace to great effect and set up plenty of goals with his accurate crossing. Indeed, when Wayne Rooney had a surprising run of scoring headers, the majority of them were set up by the wide-man.
However, that player has not been seen at Old Trafford for quite some time, with injuries taking their toll and Valencia quite simply looking a shadow of his former self even when match-fitness was rediscovered.
And yet a new three-year contract has been signed, meaning Louis van Gaal is likely to be keen on the 28-year-old. But two questions spring to mind following the news.
The first is where exactly will Valencia be playing, with the Dutchman’s recent penchant for wing-backs hinting at a possible change of formation at United? And the second being which targets does Valencia’s stay rule out if he does remain in his more regular position on the right wing?
The player is no stranger to the role of fullback, having played there at times under both Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes. And if van Gaal remains unconvinced by Rafael – and he would not be the only one – Valencia may find himself spending more of the next three years in a re-shaped United defence.
Even if that is not his permanent position, watching Holland recently it is clear just how effective wing-backs can be under van Gaal’s tutelage, so expect Valencia to be used there on occasions.
But if he remains – for the most part – on the right side of midfield, that could end United’s reported interest in a few players, most notably Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez and Fiorentina’s Juan Cuadrado (a handy wing-back himself on occasions).
So while United’s incomings remain a mystery for now, Valencia joins Patrice Evra in signing a new deal at a club where many questions still remain.