How Valencia compared with Di Maria and Blind in United's midfield

How did the Manchester United winger do in a more central position against Everton on Sunday?

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal sprang something of a surprise on Sunday, replacing the injured Ander Herrera not with vice-captain Darren Fletcher, but with Antonio Valencia.

The decision meant that United played a central midfield three with just one central midfielder, with Valencia joined by Angel Di Maria  and Daley Blind.  So how did the player more commonly used to hugging the right touchline compare with his central midfield partners?

Unsurprisingly, Di Maria stole the show in every attacking area below, although Blind had a slightly higher pass accuracy.  But Valencia did not shame himself, winning one tackle and making an impressive six interceptions - twice as many as Di Maria and three-times as many as Blind.

  DribblesKey PassShotsShots on targetPass AccuracyTouchesWon TackleInterception WonMins
Ángel Di María 7 5 6 2 87.23 88 0 3 90
Daley Blind 2 1 2 0 88.00 66 2 2 90
Antonio Valencia 2 1 0 0 82.22 59 1 6 79

Valencia also went on two dribbles and played one key pass, although he failed to have any goal-scoring attempts (on target or otherwise).

The Ecuador international has played centrally before, and he is becoming something of a jack-of-all-trades when you consider his good work as a full-back in the past.

The United star's upper-body strength is such that he is certainly built for midfield battles, and that is surely one of the main reasons he was so successful in winning back the  ball for his side - that and his tenacity.

So overall his inclusion may have surprised some but his contribution more than justified his place.  And in a team where three in midfield seems the way forward, that may be Valencia's only way into the starting XI if Rafael continues to impress at the back.

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