MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 12: Antonio Valencia attends Manchester United 'United for UNICEF' - Gala Dinner at Old Trafford on December 12, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Nathan Cox/Getty Images)
It wasn't the most convincing performance by Manchester United, but it was comfortable enough for a 2-0 away victory in Europe. However, the Red Devils defeat of Ajax came at a price -- in-form Antonio Valencia was forced to withdraw from the match after sustaining a hamstring injury. The Ecuadorian winger came on as a substitute for Ashley Young in the 76th minute but he was withdrawn just 10 minutes later. Just prior to United's 2nd goal, Valencia burst of pace help ignite the build-up but the knock he received resulted in this hamstring injury. Here is what United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had to say after the match in regards to Valencia:
"He has a hamstring injury unfortunately. It will be four weeks. It's a blow to lose Valencia tonight, but bit by bit, we are getting stronger with Nani and Ashley Young coming back. Tom Cleverley has played a bit of football tonight and Phil Jones has played a full game which is good for us. Chris Smalling was on the bench but will play in the return match at Old Trafford next Thursday."
- Ferguson | Source: ManUtd.com
Quite obviously, it was a big step forward on the injury front to see Nani, Young, Cleverley, and Jones return to action. In addition, Smalling was fit enough for the bench tonight after he recently recovered from his own injury as well. However, losing Valencia is a big blow as he's arguably been United's most impressive attacking player since the new year. The winger was unplayable at times in January and his impressive form was fortunate during a time when United were without Nani and Young. Hopefully Nani and Young can not only find their fitness soon, but also the impressive form each exhibited earlier in the season -- it will be needed instantly because of Valencia's injury.