Valencia Was Brilliant Against Valencia
Manchester United have finished their pre-season in style, beating Spanish side Valencia 2-0 in a lively, entertaining game which brought plenty of positives. Most notable among these was the performance of Antonio Valencia who showed, once again, that he could be an extremely good signing for us.
United started with the following eleven: Foster; De Laet, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Fletcher, Carrick, Tosic; Owen, Rooney. And we played well for most of the half against a Valencia side that was comfortable in possession but visibly behind on stamina - no surprise as their league starts at the end of August only.
And Valencia - the player - was in his element. He was terrorising the fullbacks, taking on everyone, dribbling, creating chances for teammates, getting into good shooting positions. He was unlucky not to score in the first half and was unlucky not to notch at least one assist as well. His fearsome pace was evident again and in that aspect he's even better than Ronaldo...
Then there was Ritchie de Laet. The young Belgian once again confirmed that he's a quick, aggressive, brave defender with good anticipation and he knows how and when to go forward. I expect he'll get more games this season, he's got promise.
Rooney, predictably, was excellent, running the show ahead of the midfield, just behind Owen. He should have scored in the first half and delivered many fine passes, none of which were converted into goals by his teammates. But that wasn't his fault: he played with an elegant intelligence which was fantastic to see against a top European team.
The biggest negative of the night has to Michael Owen: he was bought to score goals yet he missed FOUR very good chances. He could have buried Valencia single-handedly yet somehow could not find the back of the net. Zoran Tosic didn't have the best of games either: he's got great pace but his distribution must improve and he's way too lightweight just yet.
We weren't exactly solid all the time: the harassing and hassling of a competitive fixture was nowhere to be seen and too often we allowed Valencia to carve us open with pretty passing. They hit the bar and had a few chances themselves even though by and large United were in control.
The goals came only in the second half, after massive amounts of substitutions by both sides. The first was, fittingly, the work of the two best players on the pitch: Valencia dribbled down the rigth, crossed for Rooney who headed home from 6 yards out. Simple yet delightful.
Of our substitutes, Fabio was average, Berbatov did a job but hardly excelled, Nani was better than usual, Anderson was energetic yet wayward - no surprises there - and Cleverley was a pleasant surprise: he scored a very clever (nomen est omen) goal, set up by, oh yes, Valencia. Macheda caused plenty of problems for the Spanish defence but displayed an alarming tendency to fall over in possession... Gibson should have scored, he was unlucky as he rattled the crossbar with a fierce effort.
And that's it. A fine 2-0 win in a good game - couldn't have wished for anything more.