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Greenwood backed to make difference in Man Utd's Champions League shoot-out

As last days go, few can beat Ritchie De Laet’s amazing climax to the ­season in 2016.

Winning promotion from the Championship with ­Middlesbrough, then jumping in his car for the journey to Leicester to join the Premier League medal celebrations gives him a unique insight into final-day drama.

But as he sits at home in Antwerp on Sunday, the former Manchester United and Leicester defender admits he is excited at the unfolding Champions League shoot-out at the King Power Stadium.

The 31-year-old Royal ­Antwerp star – preparing for the Belgian Cup Final against Club Brugge next Saturday –admits he has split loyalties.

Foxes striker Jamie Vardy is still a big pal, while not long ago he exchanged messages with United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who helped his ­progress while reserve team manager at Old Trafford.

Mason Greenwood is preparing for the Leicester showdown

And he knows emotions will be running high with a ­minimum £25million ­Champions League pot of gold awaiting the winners.

“My last day was just crazy – nothing could beat that,” said De Laet.

“Celebrating promotion with Boro, then making it to Leicester at half-time to get my medal with them. I was so tired I ended up missing both parties – but I can’t wait for this one. Recently it’s not been often ­that so much has been riding on the last day.

“I was glued to the ­Championship in midweek, but Sunday will top that.

“It’s going to be a special day whether Leicester hold on or if United manage to take their place.

Ritchie De Laet pictured during his Leicester days

“United seem to have the momentum. Leicester did ­brilliantly until the lockdown, but couldn’t get going again when football restarted. If I was going to choose a winner, it would be United because of the run they’re on and the form of their strikers – Mason Greenwood, especially.”

But De Laet, will be happy for whoever emerges triumphant.

He believes Solskjaer stands to gain plenty if he guides United back to the ­Champions League after ­admitting he never saw him managing at Old Trafford so quickly. De Laet said: “When Ole was in charge of the ­reserves I could see he had qualities that would make him a good manager.

“But I never thought he’d be in charge of United so quickly… later in his career, yes.

“He’s done a good job to get the club into this position on the last day and knows what they are all about, especially with young players. And I laugh when I see people call him a soft touch – he was never that when I was in the ­reserves! He could be a hard guy when he had to be.”

The defender also plied his trade for Manchester United

Paul Pogba was in the ­reserves alongside De Laet and the defender believes the French World Cup winner should be a vital part of ­United’s future.

“When Paul was in the team, he was a few years younger, but his body was so developed he could play at a higher level for his age,” added De Laet. “I hope he stays ­injury-free because he should be a big part of what Ole is building there.”

While the odds might ­favour United, De Laet will be delighted if pal Vardy tastes Champions League again.

“It’ll be massive for Vards – and a reward for the loyalty he showed after Leicester won the title,” said De Laet. “When a lot of players left, he stayed, despite ­the options to leave.

“He’s still producing and chasing the Golden Boot, so another crack at Champions League would be big for him.”



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