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Why are Man United offering two 33-year-old converted full-backs new contracts?

Is it time for Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia to ride off into the sunset?

It’s not looking good for Man United at the moment, is it?

Following their defeat to top-of-the-table Man City last weekend, the club sit a massive 12 points adrift of their great cross-city rivals.

What’s more, Romelu Lukaku is in the worst form of his career, Alexis Sanchez wants to leave the club and summer signing Fred is already being described as a “flop” by some.

And to sum it all up, they look poised to offer contract extensions to ageing duo Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia

United fans can expect the pair to stay with the club for at least another season

REUTERS
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United fans can expect the pair to stay with the club for at least another season

Fans of the club aren’t too happy about this, it seems.

While both players have been stalwarts of United’s squad for years and share the captain’s armband, neither compare to the options available to their rivals.

City, for one, famously forked out over £130million on Benjamin Mendy, Kyle Walker and Danilo at the start of last season to replace the likes of Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna.

So why on earth are United keeping hold of these two?

Well, in all fairness, the pair have been two of the club’s best players during Mourinho’s time in charge.

Young’s consistency as their first-choice left-back last season earned him a spot in England’s World Cup squad over the summer, while Valencia’s performances at right-back have been widely praised.

But this season, the wheels having started to come off just a little bit.

After falling down the pecking order – thanks to the new found form of Luke Shaw – Young has been switched to right-back to replace the injured Valencia and at times has looked a little out of his depth in the position.

Luke Shaw’s fine form has been one of the highlights of United’s campaign

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Luke Shaw’s fine form has been one of the highlights of United’s campaign

Valencia’s place at the club is even more perplexing.

The Ecuadorian missed 17 games in all competitions last season and has already been absent for 12 this term.

In fact, he’s not played since the goalless draw against Valencia in early October, seemingly because of his fitness issues and a ‘complicated surgery’, according to Mourinho, anyway.

But having started and scored for his country in their friendly win over Peru on Friday, the club captain claimed his absence from United’s starting line-up has been a tactical decision from the manager.

Speaking to Area Deportivo, he said: “Right now I haven’t been playing, but it’s more of a tactical decision. The player who has been in my place has been playing well. You have to respect the decision.

“The only thing I can do is prepare and be ready for when he needs me and be in the right condition to compete.

“I’m calm right now and I know I’ll get an opportunity to play again.”

Valencia has found playing opportunities hard to come by recently

AP:Associated Press
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Valencia has found playing opportunities hard to come by recently

Clearly, the pair remain important figures in the team’s dressing room. 

After all, they’ve experienced it all at the club; from big-time Champions League clashes and Premier League titles, to manager sackings and decline.

But should they really be considered first-team regulars?

In recent years, United fans have been crying out for new out-and-out full-backs, rather than converted wingers.

The likes of Alex Sandro, Djibril Sidibe and Danny Rose have been linked with the club in the past, but only Diogo Dalot was signed in the summer.

And while the young Portuguese right-back has impressed on the couple of occasions he’s played, he’s yet to make his Premier League debut –  picking up two injuries since his arrival from Porto.

Juventus star Alex Sandro has been regularly linked with the club

Reuters
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Juventus star Alex Sandro has been regularly linked with the club

Perhaps it just simply boils down to a lack of options available. 

I mean, who else is there?

Matteo Darmian is no where near the club’s first-team at the moment and rightly so – he’s simply not been good enough and will likely leave in January.

It’s the same with Marcos Rojo, who’s proven to be a competent and versatile defender in the past, but has yet to play this season and could be shown the door very soon.

Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are central options, at best. Timothy Fosu-Mensah is on-loan with Fulham.

Matteo Darmian has been linked with a return to Italy

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Matteo Darmian has been linked with a return to Italy

In the summer, Mourinho clearly wanted to strengthen his back-line, but was forced to work with the resources available to him after a frustrating transfer window.

Speaking to Sky Sports in August, Mourinho spoke at length about his summer business and mentioned the addition of Dalot.

He said: “We changed Daley Blind for a 19-year-old kid that we believe has the potential to play right-back or left-back.”

Times have been tough for Mourinho

AFP or licensors
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Times have been tough for Mourinho

We’re sure United will be linked with a few names as the season goes on (January’s back-pages will be rife with United-based gossip, we imagine).

But in the meantime, it looks as if Young and Valencia – both aged 33 – will be as good as it gets.


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