Pundit names 32-year-old Man United star as driving force this season

BBC Sport pundit Garth Crooks talks up the importance of Manchester United defender Antonio Valencia

Manchester United defender Antonio Valencia Photo: The Sport Review

Antonio Valencia is one of the driving forces behind Manchester United’s promising start to the season, says Garth Crook.

The Ecuador international has been transformed from a quick winger into one of the Premier League’s most-consistent right-backs under Jose Mourinho.

Valencia has hardly put a foot wrong since the Portuguese coach took over the reins of the Old Trafford outfit from Louis van Gaal.

Indeed, the 32-year-old was voted the club’s player of the month for September thanks to his eye-catching performances at right-back.

The former Wigan midfielder scored one goal in 10 appearances in the 2017-18 Premier League so far this season.

Valencia scored in Manchester United’s 4-0 victory over Everton at Old Trafford back in September.

The South American helped Manchester United to keep a clean sheet in a 1-0 victory over title rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.

Former Spurs forward Crooks underlined Valencia’s importance to Manchester United following his composed performance against Spurs last weekend.

“One of the driving forces behind United this season has been Antonio Valencia,” Crooks told BBC Sport.

“The Ecuador international was at his consistent best against a Tottenham side who, in my view, gave this game away and missed Davinson Sanchez, who has been outstanding so far this season.

“Spurs played the better football and a 0-0 draw would have been good enough under the circumstances, but without the injured Harry Kane they were never really going to hurt United.”

Valencia moved to Manchester United in a £16m deal from Wigan Athletic in the 2009 summer transfer window.

The Ecuadorian wing-back has won the Premier League title three times since his move to Old Trafford seven years ago.

Manchester United will make the trip to defending champions Chelsea on Sunday afternoon.

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