Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick has revealed that he believes teammate Antonio Valencia is the unsung hero of the season in an interview with club magazine Inside United.
The Ecuadorian has enjoyed a fine season at right-back following Rafael Da Silva's recent injury problems and assisted Wayne Rooney for the opener in their comfortable victory over Brendan Rodgers' struggling Liverpool on Sunday.
And Carrick, who himself has been coming in for particular praise, believes the 29-year-old's selflessness has made him a huge asset for Louis Van Gaal's side.
Valencia has always been a marmite figure amongst the United faithful, but has silenced his critics this term after finding a consistency to his game that has been lacking in previous years.
He was integral alongside the likes of Paddy McNair, Chris Smalling and Tyler Blackett in the 2-1 victory over Arsenal last month, with his drilled cross forcing Gunners' full-back Kieran Gibbs to slice the ball into his own net for the opening goal of the game.
The former Wigan Athletic winger has featured in 12 of the club's 16 league fixtures this term, and has also started every game of United's recent six-match winning run.
In a side consisting of the likes of Rooney, Robin Van Persie and Angel Di Maria it speaks volumes that Carrick regards Valencia as equally important to the cause.
"Antonio is a pure athlete," the Englishman said.
"He is immense. It is the work he does that doesn't get noticed, things like carrying the ball up the pitch for 30 or 40 yards when you have been defending.
"He takes you up the pitch and defenders just back up because they know about his pace.
"If he can go down the line, then he is pretty hard to catch. He is a great team player and, when you are playing with him, you certainly appreciate that he is on your team."
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