SLICK VIC’S GO­ING TO BE A HIT! Smalling backs Valdes to shine

Midweek Sport - - SPORTS -

MANCH­ESTER UNITED de­fender Chris Smalling is back­ing goal­keep­ing leg­end Vic­tor Valdes to be a mas­sive hit at Old Traf­ford.

Valdes signed an 18-month deal with United ear­lier this month af­ter prov­ing his fit­ness fol­low­ing knee surgery last year.

The for­mer Barcelona No.1 – a three-times Cham­pi­ons League win­ner with the Cata­lans – is yet to fig­ure for Louis van Gaal. But Valdes is set to make his de­but in Fri­day night’s FA Cup tie at League Two Cam­bridge, with first choice David de Gea given a breather.

And Smalling reck­ons the Spain in­ter­na­tional, 33, still has a lot to of­fer – which could be cru­cial if United can’t con­vince De Gea to sign a new con­tract and opt to cash in on the 24-year-old with a big-money sale to Real Madrid. Smalling said: “He’s some­one who we all look up to through what he’s achieved al­ready in his ca­reer, but you can see he’s nowhere near done yet.

“On the train­ing field he’s so sharp and you can see that he’s very ag­ile.

“He’s such a great ad­di­tion and is a name that re­ally OUCH! Van Per­sie has not en­joyed the flak he’s had this sea­son GLOVELY SIGHT: Smalling is im­pressed with Valdes’ at­ti­tude on the train­ing pitch I’LL GET OFF: Fletcher is wanted by both West Ham and West Brom be­longs here at Manch­ester United.

“We’ve heard a few sto­ries from him and a few peo­ple have asked him ques­tions.

“Barcelona is another great club and you want to get some in­sight of what hap­pens.”

Smalling also raved about another high-pro­file im­port from Spain, de­scrib­ing An­gel Di Maria as a “spe­cial player.” The ex-Real winger be­came the most ex­pen­sive sign­ing in Bri­tish foot­ball his­tory when he joined for £60mil­lion.

And Smalling in­sists the Ar­gentina in­ter­na­tional, 26, is worth the money.

The Eng­land de­fender said: “I imag­ine An­gel is a player any fan would want in their team and any player would want to play with. We were lucky enough to be able to get him. I re­mem­ber see­ing his matches for Real last sea­son – he was up and down the pitch, cre­at­ing so many goals. He is a spe­cial player.”

United striker Robin Van Per­sie has vowed to ig­nore the crit­ics af­ter a hit-and-miss first half of the sea­son.

There are ques­tion marks over his form, with the ex-Ar­se­nal man strug­gling to re­cap­ture the spark that saw him score 26 times as United won the ti­tle in 2013.

Van Per­sie said: “It’s not nice when you read those com­ments. It’s a bit ruth­less at times.”

Dar­ren Fletcher has been told he can leave United af­ter fad­ing out of the first-team pic­ture.

West Ham and West Brom are lead­ing the chase for the Scot­land in­ter­na­tional mid­fielder.

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