Antonio Valencia’s recent mainstream recognition as one of Manchester United’s most important players should pave the way for others to experience the limelight.
The Ecuadorian winger has been a key member of the Red Devils’ squad for a lot longer than people have given him credit for, but it is positive that he is beginning to get the widespread praise he deserves.
He is not alone in the Old Trafford ranks and there are others whose contributions have been essential to taking Sir Alex Ferguson’s side to that familiar place at the summit of the Premier League.
One of these has recently begun to shine in a way that many did not expect, but his reputation was not the best so it is understandable that some may be dismissive of him - Jonny Evans.
The Northern Ireland defender has been a revelation in the past few weeks and is beginning to show some of the form that Ferguson thought possible when he gave him a debut five years ago.
His career at United did not get off to a great start and there were fears for his future after a number of hesitant displays.
However, the has stuck around and begun to prove that he has the ability and temperament to succeed at the Premier League champions, with special praise being reserved for hum by Ferguson last week.
The arrival of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling led to the widespread belief that Evans’ career at United may be in jeopardy, but he has reacted to the threat and increased competition magnificently.
One weakness he had was that the more muscular Premier League strikers had found out that they could overpower the young defender and he was targeted by some as a weak link in the United back line.
To counter this Evans seems to have bulked up somewhat or worked on his strength because he does not get turned and manoeuvred so easily by the physical approach as he once did.
He has now eve begun to improve his distribution and appears to have been working extra-hard in training because the difference between him now and a year ago is astonishing.
One man seems to split the crowd like no other and he has become first choice in the middle of the United midfield without anybody noticing too much.
Michael Carrick’s career at Old Trafford can most accurately be described as ‘up and down’, but a significant group of people seem to think that he is stuck on the latter stage.
There is something about his unspectacular rhythm that does not inspire people into rapture, though it does seem to attract an awful lot of criticism.
‘Sideways and backwards’ is a phrase often used as stick to beat the man United purchased from Tottenham in 2006, which is baffling considering the development of European football in the past few years.
Apart from it being incorrect, suggesting this is the only way Carrick passes the ball and using it as some kind of criticism is missing the point completely.
If the passes are accurate, why does it matter? Carrick has never been an attacking midfielder, he was always a more deep-lying playmaker.
There have been times when he has looked woefully lacking in form and criticisms are warranted then, but it should not be so difficult to give credit when it is so emphatically due.
In fact, Carrick does a very similar job to the one Paul Scholes does now, which is one of the reasons why United have been so effective since the turn of the year, as they have been able to control games a lot more.
They have done this by retaining possession more effectively, meaning the transitions from the middle to the last third hav been more controlled.
Keeping hold of the ball better has been done by mostly, yes, you guessed it…. passing sideways and backwards.
A player such as Carrick, who keeps the possession ticking over is vital to being a successful side and nearly every top side has one – Nigel de Jong or Gareth Barry, Mikel Arteta and Scott Parker to name a few.
It is understandable that players like Wayne Rooney take up peoples’ attention when he is playing so well and scoring so many goals, or concentrating on Ryan Giggs because he is a Premier League legend in the flesh.
But one of the things that so many admire of Ferguson’s United teams is their ability to win ugly, which is precisely what players like the ones above allow them to do.
Every great side will unfashionable and divisive players, but every now and then they deserve some praise for doing a lot of the dirty work for the great sides.
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