United ended the group stages of the Champions League with the visit of Valencia, who United beat 1-0 earlier in the competition. On the back of a frustrating few weeks for the reds, after our dismal loss to West ham, and the postponement at Blackpool, Fergie‘s men were eager to get back to winning ways. However, Valencia were not likely to roll over, with a victory taking them through top and avoiding the potential land mines in the next round.
Both sides started well, with United looking dangerous on the break, in particular Rooney and Nani who exploited the space well, and Valencia looking very assured in possession. United created the early openings, with Berbatov, off the back of 5 goals in his last outing, guilty of wasting a great chance when through on goal. Park came close as he saw his volleyed effort well saved, before Anderson’s notorious discomfort infront of goal let him down when presented with a good opportunity. Valencia were by no means dominated in the first half though, and sent out a warning to United as Dominguez struck the woodwork after a smart piece of play. And it was Dominguez who punished United just after the half hour, as he caught a sloppy Michael Carrick in possession, before playing in Hernandez who calmly slotted under Amos. Hernandez’s goal was the first United have conceded in this seasons competition, and ruined a potential record in the process. United nearly responded in style, after Rooney’s sublime curling shot was unlucky to hit the cross bar.
With the prospect of a tie against Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in the next round, it was of uttermost importance United found an equaliser. However, things started badly in the second half for United, as Ferdinand made way for Smalling after only 5 minutes of play, a big worry for the reds given the crucial games coming up. Nevertheless, United attacked with purpose and menace, and thought they had an equaliser on the hour only for Berbatov’s effort to be ruled out for offside. United werent to be held for long though, and on 62 minutes, Park Ji Sung‘s stinging shot was parried by the keeper only for the rebound to be well converted by Anderson for his second goal in a United shirt. Anderson has often frustrated for United, but last night he really displayed the quality expected of him, and hopefully a good run of games will see him develop into the world class player we know he can be. Valencia did not let the goal demoralise them however, and began to play with more confidence as the second half progressed. As Valencia ascended, United appeared to get anxious, giving the ball away dangerously, almost costing a goal after Nani and Smalling dithered on the ball in their own half.
Valencia toiled, and had plenty of the ball, but United held firm and secured their place as group winners ensuring a slightly easier draw in the next round of the competition. With the competition now on hold until February, United will now turn their attention to their domestic challenges, with fixtures against Arsenal and Chelsea consecutively coming up. Although United failed to win, there was plenty to be positive about against a strong Valencia side, who I fancy will do well in this seasons competition. With the draw in a few weeks time, United will be looking to avoid the Milan giants, Inter and AC, and hopefully get a safe passage to the quarter finals.