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21st Aug 2016

Ander Herrera makes the most ridiculous claim about Antonio Valencia – maybe he’s bloody right

Conan Doherty

Seamus Coleman (maybe). Dani Alves (maybe). Philip Lahm (maybe). We’re genuinely running thin.

Ander Herrera reckons Antonio Valencia could be the best right back in the world.

At first, you scoff. You think he’s smoking something. You think, “Valencia? Really? Come on now, Ander.” But then you think some more and wonder, “God, he must be up there anyway.”

After just one game, you could tell immediately that Jose Mourinho had already built something special at Manchester United but a big part of that was using the tools already at his disposal. One of those tools is a man who has recreated himself in defence.

“Antonio Valencia is one of the most underrated full backs around,” we wrote last week. “He’s smart, strong and he’s put out far too many fires for the club in the last three seasons. Now, he’s linking with Zlatan and it is bloody deadly.”

Ander Herrera takes it further than underrated though.

The Spaniard has heaped praise on his Ecuadorian teammate and says only Dani Alves comes close.

“I know him and have always liked the way he plays,” Herrera told MUTV. “I know he’s not a normal right-back because he used to play as a winger, but I think that, right now, he is the best right-back in the world, maybe with Dani Alves, because I like Dani Alves a lot. I think Antonio is one of the best right-backs in the world.

“When you have a right-back who is quick to defend and he is crossing maybe six or seven times a game, always or almost always successfully, then he understands the football. When I have the ball, I know that Antonio’s always ready to receive it, always to give you one solution.

“I think he’s going to be very important this season. He has already been very important for the club, he has already been here eight years, but I think I told you at the end of the last season something good is being cooked and everyone wants to be part of that.”

Is he really so wrong?

There seems to be a stigma about Valencia, one that makes you think straight away that Herrera’s comments are “most ridiculous”.

You’re not supposed to like Toni, you see. He’s had too many bad days, he’s been too ineffectual going forward and frustrated too many people that the ship has sailed and some won’t even look to see if it’s returning.

It has returned though and the 31-year-old is new and improved. He’s a fine right back.

Athletically, he’s unmatched. Every season, his defensive instincts improve, he covers for mistakes of his colleagues and most wingers won’t even face up to his speed anymore. Now, Mourinho has him playing simple, reduced football. Go down the right, put it up for Ibrahimovic. Get back.

And Valencia is thriving.

Valencia could well be one of the best in the business. Herrera could well be right.

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