RITCHIE de Laet celebrates his first anniversary as a United player tomorrow as one of the beneficiaries of Sir Alex Ferguson's defensive crisis. The 21-year-old Belgian had a hard time as part of a three-man Reds defence at Fulham - but he has impressed in Carling Cup appearances and the Old Trafford league victory against Wolves. De Laet was snapped up from Stoke City 12 months ago on the recommendation of United reserve coach Warren Joyce, who was the full-back's boss at Royal Antwerp. Back in October his progress was recognised with an Old Trafford contract to keep him at the club until 2012. And de Laet is delighted with the way his year at United has gone. "It's been fantastic, better than I expected, in fact," he said. "I came here on trial to show the boss what I could do. He gave me my chance at the end of last season at Hull and I think I took it. "I started training with the first team during pre-season and played in the friendly against Valencia, which went well. I've been involved in some Carling Cup games and a few league matches, and signed a new three-year contract. So everything has gone brilliantly. "The injury situation has been unbelievable. Of course, it would be great if every player was available and the manager could pick a settled back four, but when there are injuries you have to be ready. "You need to make the most of your opportunities and give the boss something to think about before the next game." De Laet hasn't been shy about adding to his knowledge by tapping into his older colleagues' experience. "It is important not to be afraid of going to the older lads, who are happy to help," he added. "You want to be prepared as well as you can. Not only do you want to help the team win but you don't want to look back on a game and be ashamed of your performance. "I spoke to Gary Neville before the Carling Cup tie against Tottenham, for instance, about how best to mark Aaron Lennon and he gave me great advice. It's a trend of this club to have attacking full-backs and it's one of the reasons we create so many chances. I'm learning more about the importance of picking your moment to go forward - you have to be careful not to get caught out. "I used to play up front when I was a kid, then I went to central midfield and right wing. When I joined Royal Antwerp I became a centre-back and also began playing in both full-back positions. It's just good that I can play in a lot of positions. I've played centre-back for the majority of my career, but I also enjoy playing full-back. "I'd probably choose right-back because I'm right-footed."