Antonio Valencia has thanked Manchester United’s fans for their undivided support over the last decade as the outgoing captain prepares to go through a “roller coaster of emotions” when donning the red shirt one last time.
The 33-year-old has enjoyed a memorable period at Old Trafford since joining from Wigan in 2009, winning two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and two League Cups before captaining the side to Europa League glory.
Valencia has gone from flying winger to marauding full-back during his time at a club he is now saying his goodbyes to ahead of his 339th and final appearance for United in Sunday’s season finale against Cardiff.
The Ecuador international will leave the club when his contract expires this summer, ending a period of his life that he will always remember fondly.
“It means the world to me – a roller coaster of emotions from sadness to ecstasy,” Valencia told Press Association Sport ahead of Sunday’s match, when manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is planning a celebratory goodbye.
“Sadness because I have won everything as a player here and will miss these moments.
“Sadness too because we have suffered heavy defeats as a team but thanks to the support of the fans we have managed to lift ourselves and I have no doubt they will savour more success in the near future as they deserve.
“They have always supported me even in my darkest days with serious injuries.
“My wife and daughter and closest friends will join me in my final game.
“I hope they enjoy and savour the occasion as much as I do as their commitment and support during the past 10 years was crucial to my success.
“My message to all Manchester United fans on behalf of myself and my family is to thank you for giving me your undivided support.
“I wish them all the best for the future and that future teams provide you with great victories on the field and as much success as they can muster.”
Valencia has been unable to make an impact at United this season, with the skipper making just one appearance since Solskjaer’s arrival due to injury issues.
But there have been plenty of times when he has starred down the years, leading him to sweep up at the club’s player of the year awards in 2012 and being named Players’ Player of the Year two years ago.
“I had two moments that stand out,” Valencia said, reflecting on his decade at United.
“The game versus Bayern Munich in the Champions League (in 2010) and in the 20th minute we were 2-0. It was the most memorable atmosphere I experienced as a player. It was spine-tingling and incredible.
“My first piece of silverware with United, Carling Cup 2010, as I had reached the pinnacle of my dreams as a young kid in Ecuador.
“For a whole month my family and friends kept calling me elated with emotion as they had seen my childhood dreams come finally true.”
But the United chapter of Valencia’s footballing story will not be the last.
He is determined to help Ecuador flourish at this summer’s Copa America and believes there is plenty of gas left in the tank.
“I am just concentrated in the Copa America with my nation,” Valencia added.
“The success of my nation is extremely important to me and crucial as it brought me to this world and gave me the platform to whom I am today.
“This is the only thing in my mind after tomorrow’s final game at Old Trafford.
“After this I will sit down with my family and advisors and give the matter thought as I would like to play for a further two, three years. “