Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Quiet Man Valencia's Making a Really Big Noise for United

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Quiet Man Valencia's Making a Really Big Noise for United

Article excerpt

Byline: James Olley Chief Football Correspondent

[bar] ANCHESTER UNITED'S current side may lack the sparkle of past incarnations but Antonio Valencia embodies a team whose work ethic and self-belief are likely to be rewarded with the club's 20th Premier League title.

From the devastating triumvirate of Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney that ripped through defences at will in achieving domestic and European success in 2008, only the latter remains and yet United are now the division's top scorers after last night's 2-0 win at Blackburn.

Achieving success while regenerating the team is Sir Alex Ferguson's greatest strength. Replacing Ronaldo following his [pounds sterling]80million move to Real Madrid would always prove difficult and those individuals tasked with filling his position stepped into a yawning gap.

Valencia joined United for the much less vaunted (but not insignificant) fee of [pounds sterling]17m in the same month that Ronaldo departed to mutterings of discontent at Old Trafford but the 26-year-old has become one of the most effective players at Ferguson's disposal.

His rise to prominence has mirrored United's resurgence in the title race in the same way David Silva's early season magic has given way to fatigue, contributing significantly to Manchester City's present travails.

Ferguson described Valencia as "the best man on the field by far" at Ewood Park after he struck nine minutes from time to break the deadlock before turning provider for substitute Ashley Young's superb effort that sent United five points clear at the top of the table.

Valencia and Silva have provided the most assists in the division -- 12 each -- but the United winger's have come from only 20 games, 10 fewer than City's Spanish playmaker.

His understanding with Rooney is a key feature of United's play. They struggled to break Blackburn down last night in part because Rooney was operating from a position on the opposite flank and much deeper than usual.

Valencia still tried to find him. He delivered no fewer than 21 crosses and was a constant source of invention in tandem with full-back Rafael da Silva, who is full of admiration for his team-mate. …

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