Ferdinand expresses confidence in Valencia

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The Independent Football

Rio Ferdinand believes Antonio Valencia is destined to become a big star at Manchester United.

The 24-year-old Ecuador international, signed in a £16million deal from Wigan in the summer, is starting to settle into life at Old Trafford after a slow start to his United career.

Valencia followed up his first goal for the club in last week's defeat of Bolton by grabbing a late winner against CSKA Moscow in the Champions League last night.

The 86th-minute goal was reward for a strong second-half showing in Russia and came just moments after he had hit the crossbar at the end of a flowing move.

England defender Ferdinand believes there will be plenty more to come from the modest Valencia - whose celebrations were fairly low key - as the campaign hots up.

"I think everyone is very pleased with what Antonio has done," said Ferdinand.

"He's a really humble and quiet lad. He comes in, does his work and goes home.

"He is from the Paul Scholes mould of embracing hype and attention but he's the most confident guy on the football field and he's been very impressive since he arrived.

"He is always available, always backing himself on the ball and doesn't mind a bit of contact. He is a strong lad and that's what you want.

"He's playing very well and I'm sure he will keep improving and keep scoring goals."

Ferdinand watched Valencia's winning goal from the bench after being withdrawn just before the hour mark at the Luzhniki Stadium.

Having already travelled to Russia without Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher, Patrice Evra and Park Ji-Sung, manager Sir Alex Ferguson was taking no risks ahead of Sunday's clash with Liverpool.

At 0-0, United were fairly comfortable in the game and a draw would still have left them in a dominant position in Group B.

As it transpired, the 1-0 victory maintained their 100% record in the competition and took them five points clear of nearest challengers Wolfsburg.

"It's gone according to plan so far," said Ferdinand.

"We've been here in the group stages before when we've scraped through in the last game, so it's nice to get the nine points on the board and be in a very commanding position."

On his substitution, the 30-year-old added: "I knew before the game.

"The manager said I would play around 60 minutes. It's just with an eye on Sunday."

United, the Barclays Premier League leaders, will now hope to pile on the misery for their fiercest rivals at Anfield.

Liverpool have lost their last four games and another defeat would increase the pressure on boss Rafael Benitez considerably.

United are in much better shape having won twice since an unconvincing draw against Sunderland but Ferdinand insists that matters little.

He said: "We all know there is a big rivalry between the two teams, like you see in derbies or FA Cup games.

"But form just goes out of the window. It is about who performs best on the day and that is what we are trying to do."

Ferdinand has also played down the significance of this individual fixture at this stage of the season, even though a win would lift United 10 points clear of a perceived title rival.

He said: "It is just another game to play. We want to win as many games as we can this season and this is just another one along that way."