Antonio Valencia produced a vintage captain’s display at right back during Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.
The Ecuadorian, with Michael Carrick on the bench, was handed the armband in Skopje and battled relentlessly in the searing heat, keeping tabs on Gareth Bale in the first half as Madrid ran rampant.
He then pushed forward in the second half as Jose Mourinho’s men, galvanised by Marouane Fellaini‘s introduction (no, really), started to grab the initiative and fired over some dangerous crosses.
A quick look at his stats reveal that this was an all-round captain’s display: 2 key passes, 3 tackles, 3 interceptions, 4 blocks, 6 crosses, 100% tackles won
I noted prior to this clash that facing the Champions League winners would present Mourinho’s men with a chance to show a readiness for competing with the very best of Europe’s elite next season.
In hindsight, that was perhaps a step too far. Madrid are unequivocally the best club side in the world and they were mesmerising to watch in Macedonia. United, and all English teams, are simply miles behind. This is something we just have to accept.
But this acid test revealed the true warriors in this United side – players who will not shirk when thrown into the fire pit over the next nine months – and Valencia, somewhat unsurprisingly, was one of them.