Manchester United’s players are dreaming of winning another treble after clinching the EFL Cup, defender Antonio Valencia has revealed.
A 3-2 success over Southampton at Wembley last Sunday brought the first major piece of silverware under Jose Mourinho, and despite being off the pace in the Premier League, the United trophy cabinet could still have further additions before the summer in the shape of the FA Cup and Europa League.
Two last-16 ties with Russian outfit FC Rostov are scheduled either side of an FA Cup quarter-final clash at Chelsea, who were the opponents at the same stage of the competition when United completed an unprecedented treble in 1999.
The trio of competitions this United team are chasing do not hold the same prestige as those Sir Alex Ferguson’s side claimed 18 years earlier, but it would still be an impressive feat were Mourinho’s players able to conclude a gruelling fixture list with three winners’ medals.
And converted right-back Valencia confirmed achieving the first leg of that possible treble has enhanced belief something special can be achieved in Mourinho’s first season at the helm.
“This is the mentality that we have – this trophy has given us much confidence,” the Ecuadorian said at the launch of online marketplace, aladdinstreet.com.
“We are thinking about these three trophies. I think we can do it. We have to realise we are Manchester United and that we can go on to win these three trophies.
“We haven’t given up hope (in the Premier League) this year. We’ll still fight for the league this season, but if we can’t do it this year, then we go into next season and we will fight for the league.”
The 31-year-old is one of the few members of United’s squad able to comment on comparisons between Ferguson and Mourinho having been brought to the club by the former for £16million from Wigan in 2009.
Valencia’s two Premier League champions’ medals were both attained under the Scot and he can see signs of the environment Ferguson created with his current manager now.
“I think it’s the same atmosphere,” he added.
“We have that security of playing under a top manager, it’s something you can definitely say.
“It’s always difficult to compare. They each have their own individual style, but both of them are obviously fantastic managers.”
When he first joined eight years ago, Valencia was one of those acquired to fill the sizeable void left by Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Real Madrid and while possessing different qualities to the Portuguese, his pace and strength saw him become an effective right winger.
Yet over time he began to fill in at right-back and has been used exclusively there under Mourinho, who recently said Valencia is the best in the world in that very role.
“I have to say thanks to the manager for these words,” Valencia said.
“He’s definitely given me an incredible amount of confidence. I think it’s totally acceptable to say I have improved my game since then and he’s given me a lot of game time, which has been very important.
“I’m still quite an attacking player. I feel comfortable going forward because I have played as a right winger. I like to contribute to the attacks but it’s a bit more about not committing that error when playing at right-back.”