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"Ritchie De Laet is very quick and powerful, and he’s now in the Belgian squad, so it’s been a remarkable turnaround for him.”

- Sir Alex Ferguson
19/12/2009 09:13, Report by Matt Nichols

De Laet delights Sir Alex

Ritchie De Laet is set to make his second consecutive league start for United at Fulham on Saturday, following praise from his manager.

At his pre-match press conference, Sir Alex Ferguson spoke of his delight for De Laet's upturn in fortune since arriving in M16, and said he had no qualms about fielding the Belgian at centre-half (his natural position) if Nemanja Vidic isn't fit.

The United boss said: “Ritchie's been fantastic. We gave him a new contract about six weeks ago because we see there is good potential there.

“He’s developed in training, he’s only 20, he’s very quick and powerful, and he’s now in the Belgian squad, so it’s been a remarkable turnaround for him.”

Ritchie arrived at Old Trafford in January as a virtual unknown from Stoke City. Sir Alex explained his journey to United from the Reds’ former feeder club, Royal Antwerp.

“We sent players over there for a few years like John O’Shea, Craig Cathcart, Jonny Evans, Danny Simpson, quite a lot of players.

"Ritchie was a young player there at the time and we sent Warren Joyce (now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's reserve-team assistant) over there when they were struggling for a coach.

“Antwerp sold Ritchie to a Turkish team but they had financial problems and couldn’t pay his wages. So he had to go on a free transfer and Stoke City brought him to England.

“We were having problems with young centre-halves in our reserves when Warren Joyce remembered Ritchie from his Antwerp days.

"We spoke to Stoke about him, and that’s how he came to be here. He never played a first-team game for Stoke, he probably wasn’t there long enough.”

Nemanja Vidic is a doubt for Saturday, but Sir Alex is hopeful that he might overcome a calf injury picked up in the win over Wolves in midweek.

If the Serbian centre-half is fit, then De Laet is likely to start at right-back again.

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