Friday 15 December 2017

Manchester United’s Valencia set to be sidelined for a month with hamstring injury

Mark Ogden

ANTONIA Valencia is set to be sidelined for a month with a hamstring injury after lasting just 10 minutes of Manchester United’s 2-0 Europa League victory against Ajax.

Manchester United’s Valencia set to be sidelined for a month with hamstring injury

The Ecuadorean winger, one of United's most impressive performers in recent weeks, left the field on 86 minutes – 10 minutes after replacing goalscorer Ashley Young – clutching his left hamstring as he trudged down the players’ tunnel.

Valencia’s injury marred an otherwise positive evening for United against the Dutch champions, with Tom Cleverley returning from a four-month ankle injury lay-off and both Nani and Young proving their fitness following recent injuries.

Ferguson said: “Valencia has got a hamstring injury which is unfortunate. Hamstrings are hamstrings, so it could be four weeks.

“There was definitely a positive in getting players back, though. For Thomas Cleverley, there was always going to be a point when we took him off. It was his first game in four months.

“It was Ashley Young’s second game in two months, while Nani and Phil Jones have come back and played a full game which is good.”

United’s victory ahead of next Thursday’s return at Old Trafford ensures Ferguson’s team are strong favourites to progress to a last 16 tie against Lokomotiv Moscow or Athletic Bilbao next month – the Russians secured a 2-1 first-leg victory at the Luzhniki Stadium on Thursday night.

And despite being underwhelmed by his team’s performance, Ferguson insists that United will benefit from their participation in the Europa League is they continue to win.

“I think the result was better than the performance.” Ferguson said. “The first half was disappointing and it was difficult to get rhythm and speed to the game.

“We made it difficult for ourselves, but we improved in the second half, made some good opportunities and deserved to win. You can’t complain too much when you win 2-0 away from home.

“Winning is always a good habit. We’re in a good spell now and, bit by bit we have a few players coming back.

“Chris Smalling was on the bench and he will play next Thursday for the return leg. We are getting stronger.”

Having described the Europa League as a ‘punishment’ for United following their Champions League against Basle last December, Ferguson and his squad now appear to be warming to the prospect of progressing to the final in Bucharest in May.

The draining effect of playing on Thursday evenings has yet to become an issue, with United not in action this weekend due to their elimination from the FA Cup.

And Ferguson admits he is open-minded about the potential pitfalls of playing in Uefa’s second tier competitions.

He said: “It’s difficult to say (if it will be a problem) because we’ve never experienced the Europa League before.

“If we can get through this it’s another exciting game – Athletic Bilbao or Lokomotiv Moscow.

“There’s no lack of incentive with the prospect of some big games ahead.”

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