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Quinton Fortune hails 'unbelievable' Antonio Valencia


Former Manchester United star Quinton Fortune believes Antonio Valencia could turn out to be the Red Devils' secret weapon in this season's Barclays Premier League title battle.

Fortune is a regular presence at United's Carrington training complex and has seen for himself just what an impact Valencia has had since his return from injury.

Sir Alex Ferguson rates the South American a greater talent than double-winning hero Andrei Kanchelskis, a comparison Fortune can understand.

However, the South African feels Valencia is more like Paul Scholes in his attitude to the game.

"Antonio has been unbelievable since he came back," Fortune said. "He has been the man of the match for United in the last three matches and is getting his rewards for all the work he has done to get fit.

"But the thing about Antonio is that he is so quiet. He is a bit like Paul Scholes in that respect; comes in, trains and goes home, back to the quiet life.

"Even when he scores, he doesn't celebrate. But he does win games, that is why the boss likes him so much."

Fortune has already seen what an impact Valencia's presence at United has in his home country Ecuador, and tomorrow will set off on the club's DHL Champ19ns Trophy Tour.

The tour will cover 29 countries and 48,000 miles, beginning in Delhi.

Fortune will be accompanied by 1999 Champions League-winning hero Denis Irwin, while Andy Cole, Bryan Robson and Gary Pallister are among a host of stars that will also be involved before the tour comes to an end.

As the Premier League trophy is taken around the globe, United's present first-team stars will remain at home attempting to ensure it remains at Old Trafford for another year.

Manchester City's midweek defeat at Everton has boosted United ahead of a tough run of fixtures that starts at Chelsea on Sunday.

Even Ferguson concedes it is a question of hanging onto City's coat-tails at present, although Fortune can detect some cracks starting to appear in the Blues' previously smooth veneer.

"City have not been in this situation before and suddenly they are finding that everyone wants to beat them, and is trying that bit harder to do it," he said.

"When you look at the next few fixtures it appears they have it easy. But it is never like that at this stage of the season. No-one will give you anything and they have to be prepared for that."