The interim manager has confirmed that Antonio Valencia will hold onto the captaincy armband despite barely appearing for the club this season.
The 33-year-old has had issues with his calf and knee at different points of the season, but even when fit, has failed to garner first-team action, appearing just seven times in total. Valencia’s most recent appearance came in the 2-1 Champions League defeat to Valencia this month, while he hasn’t been seen in the Premier League since the 1-1 draw with Wolves in September.
Solskjaer has deployed both Ashley Young and Diogo Dalot as the right-backs in his first two games in charge, but hinted that Valencia will be recalled when fully fit.
“Antonio is the captain. When he is properly fit and playing, he will wear the armband,” Solskjaer said ahead of United’s game against Bournemouth on Sunday. “He’s going through a couple of tough sessions to get him ready for the busy period. There’s not many better right backs going forward.”
The Norwegian used Young as captain during Manchester United’s 5-1 win over Cardiff in his first game in charge, while handing the armband to goalkeeper David De Gea for the 3-1 win over Huddersfield on Boxing Day.
But Valencia, who is on the cusp on finishing a decade at Old Trafford, will remain captain at least till the end of the season, when his current contract expires. The Ecuadorian was actually signed from Wigan Athletic as a right-winger, but in recent seasons, has made the right-back position his own, winning United’s Player of the Year award from that role in 2016-17.
Solskjaer knows what he is doing, and it makes sense not to disturb the status quo when it comes to captaincy and leadership duties mid-season, especially when Valencia is feeling his way back to full fitness and needs all the confidence he can get to do the same. It also helps to have a hungry squad vying for places in the starting berth as that can only result in better performances from each player.