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Aug 8, 2012

Valencia not pressured by iconic shirt

Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia is not concerned by the extra pressure of wearing the club's iconic No.7 shirt.

Valencia, 27, has taken over the shirt from Michael Owen following the striker's release from the club.

The number has also adorned the back of Eric Cantona, Bryan Robson and George Best in the past, while more recently both David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo have worn the shirt.

The Ecuadorian winger, however, isn't focusing on its significance.

"There is no extra pressure," he admitted. "The club asked me if I would like to wear the number seven shirt and I said I would be delighted. I am excited to wear it and want to enjoy it, but really I just want to continue improving my own game."

Sir Alex Ferguson brought Valencia to Old Trafford in 2009 for £17 million, but a succession of injuries has seen his progress halted.

When fit, Valencia has proved himself to be one of the most productive wingers in the Premier League, providing an array of assists for the talismanic Wayne Rooney.

"We all know Rooney," he said. "He can do amazing things and doesn't just wait for me to assist him. There are other good players and he can do it on his own. He is looking good."

Last season's second-place finish wasn't seen as good enough for a club of United's stature, especially as they were beaten to the title by their great rivals Manchester City. This failure means that Ferguson will make the league his main priority this time around.

United's midfield creativity has been expanded by the arrivals of Japanese international Shinji Kagawa, and youngster Nick Powell from Crewe, to add to Valencia's work on the wing.

"I don't feel it was such a bad season but when you look at it, we lost the league because at one point we were eight points in front," said Valencia.

"Even then we only lost out by a few goals. It is always very tricky in football. You never know what is going to happen because all these other big teams; Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City, have the same aim. But our expectations are exactly the same as they have always been."

Due to a collection of injuries in the United defence last season, Valencia was forced to play in the unfamiliar role of right-back, and it's possible that he might have to feature there again in the future.

"I was a little uncomfortable at the beginning because it was the first time I had played in that position," he said. "But I soon got into the rhythm of it and then I felt much better. Having said that, I hope I don't have to do it again."

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