Manchester United's key to more Premiership and Champions League success lies with Valencia, insists Old Trafford hero Norman Whiteside.
Not in Sir Alex Ferguson's reported £50million New Year splash on targets David Villa and David Silva from Spanish club Valencia.
Instead Whiteside pinpoints the growing influence of the summer's virtually unheralded recruit from Wigan — Ecuador winger Antonio Valencia.
“He still hasn't fully integrated into to the side but I'm excited and encouraged by what I've seen so far. He is a fantastic crosser of the ball and now he is starting to get among the goals, I'm predicting big things from him,” says Whiteside, the 80’s hardman still revered at United where he now works on the hospitality and Legends Tour side.
A keen student of the current day United, he observes: “Valencia isn't another Ronaldo. There isn't one. But I did note a statistic that showed Wigan scored more goals from Valencia's crosses last season than United managed from Ronaldo's.
“Ronaldo is irreplaceable nevertheless. What United need to do is replace his goals.
“The two Spanish players supposedly coming in might part provide the answer but another solution may already be in place the more Valancia adapts with the increasing quality of his crosses for Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov.”
Rooney remains the main man for Big Norm.
And he believes boss Sir Alex Ferguson gives Rooney more leeway than most because the fiery United boss sees something of himself in his star striker.
“To be a top player, you need devilment and aggression,” contends Whiteside, who would know. “I watch Wayne Rooney in training at Carrington sometimes and he is the same on the practice pitch as he is on the real thing.
“He always wants the ball, he's ultra-competitive and looks like he'd be like that for £20 a week, never mind £100,000.
“Yes, he gets in bother sometimes but its because he is totally committed. Its in the DNA, just like Fergie.
“Look at the way he has been jumping up and down on the touchline lately. He's passionate about the United cause and he sees the same in Rooney.
“That's why Wayne sometimes gets a by-ball when others get the hairdryer.”
Whiteside also backed another player United fans have begun to lose patience with — Dimitar Berbatov.
He did accept, though: “Berbatov owes us more goals. He has to give us a little but more.
“In his defence, he has a great first touch. What makes him look lackadaisical, and irritates the fans, is the energy of Rooney alongside him.
“The thing he has to understand though, is when you come to United, the fans expect you to be the finished article and an instant success.”
The signing of Michael Owen he regards as 'a good piece of business'.
“He'll do the job Fergie wants, coming on and nicking goals,” said Norman. “Fergie could have spent £20million on a 12 goals a season player.
“If Michael Owen gives him that on a free, his wages will have been money well spent.”
Whiteside also backed his old boss Ferguson, now 67, to carry on past the 70 mark.
“People have been asking me for five years how long he will go on. Only he knows that. What I do know is that when I was a player, he was first at the training ground every morning, having tea with the laundry laidies, and nothing has changed.
“His enthusiasm and passion remain incredible and everyone who watches how he reacts to even the most minor decision against United can see that.”