Alex Ferguson highlights importance of Antonio Valencia return
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has hailed the contribution of Antonio Valencia to the Red Devils' treble quest.
The South American's second season at Old Trafford came to an abrupt halt in September when he suffered a major ankle injury in United's Champions League opener with Rangers.
It took Valencia six months to get fit again but it now appears he has never been away.
The winger scored his first goal since August to wrap up Saturday's comfortable Premier League win over Fulham and Ferguson has already identified him as a key man in tonight's eagerly-anticipated Champions League return with Chelsea.
"We expected Antonio to come back like this," said Ferguson.
"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.
"Nani has had a fantastic season. To have the two of them available is a tremendous boost at this time of year."
Ferguson has every reason to feel optimistic about his side booking a last-four meeting with German challengers Schalke.
Defending a single-goal advantage returning front-man Wayne Rooney gave them last week, United are bolstered by an excellent home record but also the potential for anxiety in visitors' ranks given owner Roman Abramovich so obviously wants the Champions League trophy on his mantelpiece.
"It does seem to be an obsession with Chelsea to win the European Cup," said Ferguson.
"That is why they signed Fernando Torres. The owner has every much nailed his colours to the mast in that respect. I have felt that for quite a while with him.
"To have an obsession of winning the European Cup is stretching yourself a wee bit. At the end of the day it is a very difficult competition to win.
"But I can understand it because I had the obsession myself for quite a while. I lost semi-finals and you say to yourself you are never going to do it.
"When we achieved it in Barcelona, it was the greatest feeling of all time.
"It took the monkey off my back."
Latest in Sport
Arsenal vs Tottenham player ratings: Mesut Ozil? Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain? Nacer Chadli? Who was the star man at the Emirates?
Colombian women's cycling team kit that makes wearer appear naked is branded 'unacceptable' by UCI president
Husain Abdullah penalised after celebrating a touchdown with a Muslim prayer - causing mass outrage among fans
Manchester United risk Uefa row over plan to play lucrative midweek friendlies
Cristiano Ronaldo banner: This is how Real Madrid striker reacted to the stunt by Manchester United fans
- 1 Reyhaneh Jabbari: Iran due to execute woman for murder of her alleged attempted rapist
- 2 Expert urges cat lovers to own just one animal each
- 3 Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
- 4 The Simpsons death: Creator Al Jean would 'kill himself' before character like Homer or Lisa
- 5 British man raped while urinating in bushes at Oktoberfest beer festival in Germany
Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
'Women, walk wherever you want' posters taken down in Stamford Hill following 'unacceptable' signs separating men and women
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so