Ferguson hails Valencia return

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has praised the impressive form of Antonio Valencia upon the winger’s return from injury, and believes the Ecuadorian’s timely recovery could be crucial as his side chase a first treble since 1999.

The 25-year-old had been out of action for more than six months as a result of the broken ankle he sustained in a Champions League match last September, but came on as a substitute to make his long-awaited return to the first team in last month’s FA Cup win over Arsenal.

United have since chalked up five consecutive wins in all competitions, and Ferguson believes it is no coincidence that Valencia’s return has corresponded with a marked improvement in the Red Devils’ performances.

Speaking to the Independent, the 69-year-old Scot said: “We expected Antonio to come back like this. He is an outstanding footballer, who is very capable of being a threat.

"His understanding of the game is terrific. He has a great tactical brain. The boy has everything, balance, power and speed.

"When we got nearer the time, we couldn't get him back quickly enough. We arranged closed-doors games to get his tempo and rhythm back.”

Valencia’s recapturing of both fitness and form, coupled with Nani enjoying what many consider to be the best season of his career to date, means Ferguson now has two potentially match-winning wingers at his disposal.

The United manager was also quick to praise the Portuguese, and believes both of his widemen will have key roles to play in the big games to come.

"Nani has had a fantastic season. To have the two of them available is a tremendous boost at this time of year."

By Liam Twomey