Valencia 0 United 1
United traveled to the Mestalla Stadium keen to get a result against Valencia tonight and did just that courtesy of a late goal from Hernandez.
With Rooney, Scholes, Giggs and Valencia unavailable for one reason or other, the starting line up selected by Sir Alex Ferguson saw Ferdinad slot in alongside Vidic at the heart of the defence, Michael Carrick return from injury to play in midfield and Anderson also selected for a start after his own injury problems. Michael Owen, so prolific in recent games, found himself on the bench again.
Speaking about the inclusion of Ferdinand, Sir Alex had this to say in his pre-match interview,
'It's a very tough job, we've had some dour games against Valencia and their system is almost exactly the same as when we played them 12 years ago. Rio's experience is vital for us - we need to keep possession of the ball tonight and he's good at that. We need to get rid of the carelessness, that's what we've been scratching our heads at.'
United - Van der Sar, Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Carrick, Fletcher, Anderson, Nani, Berbatov, Park.
Subs - Kuszczak, Owen, Smalling, Hernandez, O`Shea, Macheda, Gibson
Our hosts were quick off the blocks and Van der Sar had to show his aerial ability by claiming a cross from Miguel early on, United responded with Berbatov driving an effort just wide from eighteen yards.
Valencia, pushing forward, forced United players into making uncharacteristic errors. Firstly Carrick gave the ball away allowing Hernandez a shooting opportunity that he fired over the bar and then the normally immaculate Van der Sar completely missed a cross that Soldado, with an easy chance to score, headed over the bar.
Those two errors seemed to stiffen United`s resolve and the game settled into a pattern whereby most of the action centered around the midfield with Berbatov being fed on a diet of long balls that were easily being cut out.
Valencia threatened when Hernandez eased past Evra and delivered a dangerous ball, thankfully no Valencia players were on hand to get a touch to slide it home.
Half time came with it being a United performance that was distinctly average.
Discussing the first half performance with the television people, Sir Alex commented,
'We have to use the ball better when we get it, and play with more intensity. If they press as they are, they will get tired so we have to keep it going. Hopefully we'll be OK.'
Half Time - Valencia 0 United 0
No changes were made by either manager at half time as the action got back underway. The action was much the same as the first half, a midfield slog but Berbatov lit up affairs with a moment of skill that saw him ride a challenge before looking on as the outstretched leg of Sanchez kept his shot out.
Valencia trying to force the issue introduced Aduriz in place of Dominguez and it was the home side that was having the better of the play without creating a serious chance. But that almost changed when a Miguel cross saw a Soldado header flash wide.
A second substitution saw Fernandes almost score when he ran at the United defence and saw his swerving shot pushed away by Van der Sar. Sir Alex tried to kick-start the United attack by introducing Hernandez for Anderson. With time running out, United almost took the lead.
Nani crossed for the right and Hernandez stretched to reach the ball but could only look on as he diverted it onto the frame of the goal. But respite for Valencia was only brief as Hernandez gave United that crucial breakthrough with five minutes left on the clock.
The goal came after United executed a swift counter-attack with Nani feeding Macheda (on for Berbatov) who fed Hernandez for the Mexican to sweep home. United had nicked this one at the death.
Valencia 0 United 1 (Hernandez - 85 mins)
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