Valencia previews 2017/18 with Inside United
The 2017/18 season will bring up a big milestone for Antonio Valencia. With 292 Manchester United appearances under his belt going into the Premier League campaign, the buccaneering full-back will soon hit the 300 mark, the preserve of Reds servants only of a certain standing.
But when sitting down with Inside United during the club's pre-season tour in the USA, it was clear that Antonio won't be focusing on personal achievements, impressive as that 300-mark may be. No, the thing that motivates him is simple: winning trophies. It's a theme he returns to time and again during our chat, and it's abundantly clear that it's the silver stuff that keeps his fires burning.
Valencia already has nine trophies as a United player, but going into his ninth season he desperately wants to increase that haul. And as he told us in the States, he has strong belief that the club is in shape to challenge on all trophy fronts, with Jose Mourinho's ideas and methods firmly embedded, and extra firepower added to what was already a powerful, confident and motivated squad.
“The confidence is very good,” he states. ”We won three trophies last season and we want more this time around. Everybody had a good break and we have come back with renewed determination. Our training in the US was hard, but we are all together and want to achieve more success this season.”
Romelu Lukaku is the man who has bolstered that forward line the most and the Belgium international is quickly making a big impact on his team-mates, primarily due to his scoring form in pre-season and sharp performances in training. Furthermore, the summer signing's hulking frame has also caught the eye and the similarly tank-like Valencia is humbled by such size and power.
“Lukaku has done a great job with the clubs that he has been at,” Antonio says. ”I am a kid next to Romelu! [Laughs] He truly is strong. I have seen him work on the field and in the gym. It's truly incredible to see his strength, power and the intelligence he possesses. We hope it is a good year for him and the team.”
Having faced Lukaku many times in the Premier League before, and trained with him for the last six weeks, Valencia is certain in his response when asked if Romelu is a defender's worst nightmare.
“Definitely,” the 31-year-old explains with a knowing smile. ”He is strong, but he also has good movement around the field and if I am playing as a defender then I would not like to play against him!”
The big question, of course, is not about winning football matches or trophies, but who would win in an arm wrestle between Valencia and Lukaku!
“I think he would,” Antonio concedes. ”He is too strong!”