Having finally left Old Trafford in the summer, the Ecuadorian wide man still has a deep emotional investment in his former team
Antonio Valencia has admitted that he struggles to watch Manchester United as it is “painful” for him to follow his former team.
Valencia moved back to his native Ecuador in the summer, joining LDU Quito on a free transfer after he was released by the Red Devils. He spent 10 years at Old Trafford and, now 34, is entering the twilight of his career.
Speaking to The Athletic, Valencia revealed that he does not keep up with United as closely as some might think. “Honestly, I do not watch all of the games now,” he said. “It is painful for me.
“I try to watch but it makes me very sad. I have United in my heart: the city, the fans, 10 years of my life. It is too hard to watch the defeats. I miss being there.”
Valencia won two Premier League titles under Sir Alex Ferguson and, while the side struggled in subsequent years and he evolved from a flame-heeled winger into an industrious full-back, he left the club as a fan favourite.
Reflecting on what made United so successful under Ferguson, he said: “This was a team of absolute winners. I remember arriving at United and winning a game at the weekend. I thought: ‘Phew, now we can relax a little.’ Then straight away everyone was talking about winning the next game.
“There was never time to enjoy the wins. But that’s what title winners do. I’d get to training: Patrice Evra, Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs were all in the gym, way before training started. I am thinking: ‘These guys have Champions League winners’ medals, they are multi-millionaires, and here they are in the gym at 7am?’
“Imagine that determination, that inner steel, that hunger. As a young player, what a lesson: these people are not only winners but they are addicted to winning.
“[They were] demanding, too. The players policed the dressing room. There was nothing worse than lateness from a young player, because 34-year-olds had arrived two hours before to do extra work.
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“Do people realise these hard yards? They see results, who wins and who plays well, but they don’t get to see the sacrifices.
“Giggs, for goodness sake! I got there when he was [in his] mid-30s and he’s taking up yoga so he can keep winning and then he’s leading the way in fitness drills. Amazing.”
After coming from behind to seal a stunning draw against Sheffield United this past weekend, Man Utd face Astana in the Europa League on Thursday before returning to Old Trafford against Aston Villa on Sunday.