Richie De Laet in action for Leicester City against Manchester United’s Angel di Maria in 2014. Picture: Getty Images
Richie De Laet in action for Leicester City against Manchester United’s Angel di Maria in 2014. Picture: Getty Images

Man U to Melb City: Star’s A-League praise

FORMER Manchester United defender Ritchie De Laet's arrival underlines the A-League's growing reputation in Europe.

De Laet, who is on loan from Aston Villa, will debut for Melbourne City in Saturday night's much-anticipated Melbourne derby.

The Belgian international, who forged a strong reputation at the likes of Leicester City, Middlesbrough and Antwerp, says coming here close to his prime shows Australia's stocks are rising.

"You're seeing younger pros from the UK are starting to come over, not just the 33, 34, 35 year olds who come here to finish their careers,'' de Laet said.

"You see younger people like me. I'm 29 and I've still got some good years ahead of me.

"That speaks volumes about what people in Europe think about the A-League, they're ready to take that step because they know the quality is there.

"A club like Villa sending players on loan here as well, so obviously the quality's here. The professionalism of the clubs is really good.

Melbourne City signing Ritchie De Laet opted for Australia after more than 10 years in England. Picture: Getty Images
Melbourne City signing Ritchie De Laet opted for Australia after more than 10 years in England. Picture: Getty Images

"When Ross (McCormack) came back he was speaking very highly of the A-League and more players are ready to make that step for something completely new.

"I've played a few games and trained and the quality is there."

De Laet is reunited with Joyce, who coached him at Antwerp and then Old Trafford and recalled fondly an unforgettable period (2008-12) when Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge.

"It was a great time for me, signing for Man United was a dream come true,'' he said.

 

"Warren was my coach at Antwerp, then I went to Stoke, he got the United Under 23 job, took me on a six-month contract and I went there and did well for myself and really enjoyed it.

"It was great, training with them boys everyday - (Paul) Scholes, (Ryan) Giggs, (Wayne) Rooney, (Cristiano) Ronaldo, Nani, (Nemanja) Vidic, (Patrice) Evra. You're learning something new every day.

"It was a great time in my career, I learnt so much and thankful that the gaffer gave me the chance to go there and I had a great three-and-a-half years."

With Nathaniel Atkinson and Dylan Pierias away on Young Socceroos duty, de Laet is expected to slot into right-back and City's back four will have their work cut out stopping Victory's fluid attack of Ola Toivonen, Keisuke Honda, James Troisi and Kosta Barbarouses.

"I'm looking forward to the game as a whole, the boys have been talking about the derby, it's a big occasion but its one game at a time, regardless of who the opposition is,'' De Laet said.

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