Manchester United were allegedly dealt a blow of jaw-breaking proportions upon hearing the news that Dani Alves sparked chaos on the Barcelona roads by performing a widely unanticipated U-turn on his prolonged contract saga.
In the aftermath of Los Blaugrana completing the treble with a Champions League final win over Juventus, the in-demand right-back decided the Nou Camp was the best place to be after all and scuppered the hopes of the Red Devils, and doubtless many others, who hoped to sign him for nothing.
However, the extent to which Alves would’ve improved the Old Trafford outfit was questionable given their options on the starboard side of defence, meaning the revelation that makeshift right-back Antonio Valencia will be sidelined for six months with a broken ankle should be met with way more devastation.
The Ecuadorian and his unrelenting energy levels made him one of Man Utd’s most potent attacking threats last time around so his lengthy absence means Louis van Gaal may have to reconfigure his entire offensive strategy for the coming season.
Marauding from a deeper starting point meant Valencia was afforded more space in the opposition half and was United’s most frequently utilised outlet in 2014/15.
No Red Devil received more passes than the 1,572 that came the former Wigan man’s way across his 32 league appearances, 134 more than closest colleague Ander Herrera and 165 more than Kieran Trippier, who boasts the next highest tally of those who played predominantly at right-back last time around.
What’s more alarming from a United perspective, however, is the fact that Juan Mata was the only member of the ranks to receive the ball more in the final third; he beat the Ecuadorian’s count by 19.
The Spaniard was passed to most in the opposition half too, with Valencia coming in second after collecting 946, just 95 fewer than the club’s playmaker-in-chief.
In terms of touches in the opposition half, the 29-year-old was unsurpassable by any teammate with 1,429 compared to Mata’s 1,371, while the converted full-back beats the same individual by 51 when touches in the final third are compared.
Such stats indicate what an integral attacking tool Valencia is in United’s artillery and the adventurous nature of his game means they won’t only be short at right-back during his absence, but at right-wing too.