Manchester United club captain Antonio Valencia looks set to leave Old Trafford this summer after 10 years at the club.
Signed from Wigan under the noses of Real Madrid in 2009, the 33-year-old has made 338 appearances for the club and picked up two Premier League winners’ medals in the process.
Valencia was appointed United captain by Jose Mourinho in the summer, but has managed just eight appearances this season – and a calf complaint has been partly behind why he has made just one start under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Press Association Sport understands that the right-back has returned to Ecuador as he recovers from his latest injury issue and expects to leave Old Trafford in the summer after a decade of service.
Valencia’s contract expires at the end of the season and it is understood the club had until 5pm on Friday to trigger the one-year extension clause built into his deal.
Valencia hinted late on Friday evening that he is set to exit the club.
He wrote on Twitter: “Lago Agrio is a very humble town in Ecuador. When I was a child, I never imagined travel to Europe. Thanks to God for letting me play 10 years in the best club in the world: @ManUtd.
“Now I am focused on my recovery so I can end the season playing at Old Trafford!”
A number of club are believed to be looking at a player who is keen to carry on for several more years.
Press Association Sport understands that Saudi Arabian club Al-Ittihad were seriously interested in signing Valencia, but the recent sacking of ex-West Ham manager Slaven Bilic appears to have scuppered that move.
Valencia’s impending contract extension deadline was put to caretaker manager Solskjaer in Friday’s press conference previewing the Premier League clash with Southampton.
“He’s still not 100 per cent fit,” the Norwegian said.
“He’s still working to get back fit and he’s had a fantastic career here at Man United and in England. He’s one of the Premier League winners left in the dressing room.
“But at the moment I’m not sure if Man United and Antonio will agree on the next year, so it depends how he… if he gets back on the pitch as well in the next few months.
“But Antonio’s the captain, a great servant to the club, so hopefully I can get him on the pitch so he can show what he can do. Or he can get himself 100 per cent and get back on the pitch.”
While Valencia looks set to move on to pastures new, United are doing everything they can to agree a new deal with David De Gea.
Despite the goalkeeper’s apparent desire to remain at a club he joined from Atletico Madrid in 2011, demands around the deal are understood to have held things up as talks continue with the Spaniard.
“No updates from me on that one,” Solskjaer said.
“Of course, the club and David are in dialogue, so hopefully they’ll agree.
“It’s out of my hands anyway, but I’m sure we’ll do what we can.
“David’s done fantastic since he came. The club really showed how much they wanted him back in the day when Eric (Steele, goalkeeping coach) and the gaffer (Sir Alex Ferguson) found him.
“There was probably keepers there that were better at that time, but the belief that the manager showed in him with the criticism that he got early just pays dividends now with the performances.
“He’s been player of the year for I don’t know how many years, the last four or five years, so we’re grateful to have him.
“Then again, we’ve got Sergio (Romero) and Lee (Grant), so it’s a fantastic goalkeeper department that we have, so I don’t think there’s any manager in the world that will beat me in that respect.”
De Gea will start against Southampton on Saturday, when Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Phil Jones, Nemanja Matic, Matteo Darmian and Valencia will again be absent.
Anthony Martial could return to the fold after a groin complaint and Marcus Rashford is primed to start after being named on the bench in Wednesday’s 3-1 win at Crystal Palace.
“It’s the last session today but we’re not going to take any risks so maybe Anthony (could play), but it might even be a few more days before he’s ready,” Solskjaer said.
“So probably the squad will look similar to what it did on Wednesday.
“Rashford (is fully fit). He said he still felt it Wednesday night, so he’ll be ready, so I’ll probably start him.”