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Valencia v Manchester United - as it happened
Barney Ronay - 3 years ago

7.12pm: Hello and welcome to live coverage of Valencia versus Manchester United, a match that, oddly on these kind of early tournament nights, United are second-favourites to win. They don't tend to do very well in Spain at the best of times; and these are not those times. The defence has looked wobbly. The attack is denuded of its Wayne. And Valencia are on fire in La Liga. This could be a very significant night for this under-resourced, mid-period-Glazer, at times strangely lightweight-seeming Manchester United. Dimitar Berbatov will start at the head of the attack. Michael Owen is on the bench. "He's knocking on - but he is Michael Owen," as Adrian Chiles has just pointed out. Interesting. But is he right?

7.18pm: I've not got the full team just yet but I can reveal Rio Ferdinand will start in central defence so a huge night for the Peckham Stroller as he tries to reposition his career away from designing horrible pointy brown leather shoes and interviewing P Diddy and back on to the old business of hoofing a ball about.

7.22pm: Funny really, both these teams are in the same weird position as gravity defying debt-magnets who keep on winning games and maintaining their position at the peak of their leagues without actually having a bean to spend. Andrew Wiese is no slouch: "I guess you quite metaphorically meant Valencia is "quite literally on fire"? Hope it's a good game, Berbatov scores a couple, and Valencia bang in at least a couple past Vidic..." Yes. Joking. Good eh. I'm not sure if Vidic is in goal tonight.

7.22pm: In fact, he definitely isn't. These are your teams: Valencia Cesar Sanchez, Miguel, David Navarro, Hedwiges Maduro, Jeremy Mathieu, Pablo Hernandez, David Albelda, Tino Costa, Juan Mata, Alejandro Dominguez, Roberto Soldado.Manchester United Edwin van der Sar, Rafael, Rio Ferdinand,, Nemanja Vidic, , Patrice Evra, Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick, Anderson; Nani, Dimitar Berbatov, Park ji-Sung.Referee Viktor Kassai (Hungary)

7.30pm: So, a United midfield of Fletcher, Carrick, Park and Anderson. Not exactly Bekcham, Scholes Keane and Giggs is it? Maybe I'm simply being pessimistic but you do at times find yourself craning your neck around wondering where the real quality is in there. Phil sawyer adds: "I can confirm that Adrian Chiles is correct - Michael Owen is indeed Michael Owen. They way you can tell is to gently tap his hamstring with your finger. If he crumples to the ground you've definitely got a genuine Michael Owen on your hands." The man who is Michael Owen is indeed Michael Owen. Terrible news for Valencia. Although you do still have to wonder if this Michael Owen is genuinely "Michael Owen" in the most Michael Owen sense.

7.34pm: Patrick Cullen is in a fit of Piqué: "I'm a conspiracy theorist and United fan, and probably in that order too... Warming up for the match I saw the Barcelona game and couldn't help thinking, as per usual, what a wonderful player Piqué is. It got me thinking it might always have been the plan for him to go back to Barcelona after some years at United, that as some part of his education as football player he was sent away to learn. Also, if this were the case, think of the benefits to Barcelona, having a well rounded, intelligent and tecnically gifted young player in a paid apprenticeship with one of the worlds most successful coaches..." They dumped him because of the Premier League. It's all about Blackburn away and being able to grapple with Chris Samba at seven consecutive corners. They bottled it and stuck with the Brits and Celts.

7.34pm Kip Holmes wonders: "Why does Berbatov always look like he is going to have a cry in still photos?" Every time he's photographed a tiny portion of his immortal soul perishes. He really hates that.

7.36pm: On under-resourced mid-period United Chris Smith writes: "It sems like you're likening this United season to Exile on Main St. (Except for the Glazer part.) Too bad they're not playing in France." Or on smack in a basement.

7.38pm: Callum Hamilton has achieved some sort of Pique closure: "It was the right decision to get rid of Pique. With the form the defence was in at the time, we had to let Pique or Evans go - both are different, but equally good players (sorry, but they really are) and United were always going to be the biggest club in the world for Evans. Not so for Pique." Is Jonny Evans as good as Pique? Not if you want to win the Champions League. I think if they'd known Ferdinand was going to break they would have kept Pique for sure.

7.39pm: Simon Horwell is pleased: "Glad to see Rafael getting a start tonight. As erratic as he can be, he has to be a better option than O'Shea. He certainly provides an awful lot more going forwards. I do fear for United tonight though; as it could be said that their away form has been on the "wayne" this season....." I think they might lose by a few goals. Just got that feeling. But then - I am generally wrong about almost everything constantly.

7.42pm: Mic in Dublin has this: "Thought you might get a giggle out of this. Watching on rté here in Ireland, Eamon Dunphy when asked what to expect from Nani: "A mixture of cheating, giving the ball away and rubbish"" Very good. Also quite a lot of looking strangely hurt and misunderstood.

1 min Valencia kick off and immediately keep the ball for a bit at the back Spanish-style. United's first few kicks are greeted with mass whistles and this is a a proper loud old fashioned stadium. I like the look of the Valencia manager - has the air of an extremely energetic and well-groomed head waiter in a very swanky restaurant.

3 mins Valencia get down the United left a little easily and the ball is swung across but Van der Saar grabs above the head of the titchy Mata. Valencia seem to be playing a sneaky and fluid 4-3-3 sort of thing, in the accepted foreign style. United have just Berbatov up front and he has his first shot, a decent strike on the turn that flies just wide. That was quite close.

6 mins Some nice approach play from United but the pass behind the full back is just too far ahead of Fletcher and United have actually settled pretty well here. On RTE Callum Hamilton asks: "I've often heard good things about RTE but whenever they're quoted it just seems like a world where everyone is Alan Green. Surely that cannot be a good thing. Could regular viewers inform us as to what happens when a player scores a skilful goal, or a match produces exciting, attacking football?" Yes, me too. Never really seen it either but I have a vague sense they get Graeme Souness on and he becomes angry and says rude things.

7 mins Anderosn is playing pretty much up front. As he used to. Before he got semi-ruined. And then eventually got a bit better at being a kind of bog standard midfielder.

9 mins Long ball from Valencia that comes to nothing as the front man looks very isolated. They seem very flat right now and United are quite comfortable. Ferdinand has had a couple of decent moments at the back but, as ever, looks like a world beater who's just a moment away from some calamitous howler. Richard Hooker is reading between the lines: "After watching the way WBA took Arsenal apart, only a fool would expect Ferguson not to rest his key players in preparation for October 16th when the sons of Cyrille Regis visit Old Trafford." Is that one of those modern churches?

11 mins Lovely smooth midfield interplay from United gets Nani in behind the Valencia left back but his driven cross is deflected out off his own leg. Good stuff though and Anderson is the key man right now in his hole. It's a hole between the lines. Gary in Galway addS: "Eamon Dunphy also called Nani a "Toe-rag" - Just to give the full vista of his contempt for the little circus tumbler". Seems a bit much. What is a toe rag anyway? Some kind of ancient sock?

14 mins Alex Ferguson has just told Anderosn to drop back and mark David Albelda and so he does. A bit defensive that, the puppyish Brazilian was looking quite nifty further upfield. Valencia have a dangerous-looking free kick out on the left after a foul by Fletcher. costa wings it in quite violently but no one makes the right kind of far post run and it drifts out. Robin Hazlehurst writes: "Intrigued by your phrase 'mid-period United'. How do we know this isn't the last dusty days we're witnessing, excepting a wistful 'Old Trafford revisited' in a generation or so? Or merely the end of the beginning, a century or so of introduction, and now the thousand-year empire of Mancunian hegemony about to take off? Or at least of the multi-generational Glazer dynasty settling in in North Korean style."

16 mins Some real pressure from Valencia now, not helped by Carrick giving the ball away quite near goal. Pablo picked it up and had a blast that flew over. Moments later Soldado misses an absolute sitter, heading over an open goal as Van der Saar flaps at and misses a cross from the left. That was a woeful miss - and also some very poor marking in the middle. But Valencia now look quite handy and the crowd noise has been turned up to 11.

19 mins Some nice play by Nani by the corner flag and he digs out a cross that Anderson just can't get on target with a sneaky flick of the outside of his boot. Jonny in Manchester notes: "Nani is looking like wacko jacko in the thriller video, no?" Nani: the dead zombie Michael Jackson arisen to occupy the right flank position in a four man midfield.

22 mins United have come back into this now and it is a pretty decent game so far, most unlike what you expect from these early stage wrestling matches. John Thompson has this. I have no idea if it's true or some kind of spoof: "The origin of toe-rag is from our Old Colonial days, when Britain ruled the Empire and all that. The Berber tribesmen of North Africa were the Tuareg's, and when they misbehaved towards their kindly and in no-way despotic rulers (that would be us) they were called toe-rags as a derogatory nick name, and it stuck as being a derogatory nick name ever since." Isn't the Tuareg a really horrible massive looking car driven by housewives?

24 mins Haven't really noticed Berbatov yet, but maybe he is simply biding his time in temperamental semi-genius style. Not much width from Valencia who are looking to keep the ball and then pounce swiftly down the middle. And Neil Cooney is enjoying a nice hot steaming mug of tramp's foot: "Traditionally toe-rags were strips of cloth used to soak up all the juicy goodness between the appendages if a tramps foot. Nice. Quite what thus has to do with Nani is unclear, but Eamo certainly makes his disgust evident."

26 mins United are back in some kind of semi-control albeit they don't exactly look like scoring. I feel I can confidently predict Valencia won't be top of La Liga next May. Sorry Valencia. Thanks for all your emails about RTE by the way. Some other time for all that. David Correia is worried about a wasted career: "Wow, SAF let Anderson play in an advanced position for 15 min! SAF sure does know how to waste talent. Sadly, we will only get to see Anderson's real talent when he leaves United." Yeah... but Ferguson does know a bit about footballers.

29 mins Ferdinand and Vidic have looked pretty good so far at the back. They are a very good pair when they're both fit and up for it. The game has sort of died in the last few minutes it has to be said. And Malcolm Paine has the real story: "The origin of tow-rag, is in fact from the pad of teased out old rope that Royal Navy sailors of the 18th/19th century used to use when they visited 'the head'(toilet on the bow of the ship). Paper was far too expensive to use, so old rope, known as tow, was used and was then washed out and kept in one's pocket until needed again. Thus a 'tow-rag' is truly derisory. " Poor Nani. Who knew?

32 mins Ferdinand boots Pablo in the back after losing the ball in midfield and somehow gets a free kick out of it. The crowd hoot. Karen Davies wishes to share a "funny": "While I wish the lad a speedy recovery, I'm glad Valencia is not playing today. Imagine if you had to write: Valencia can't get past Valencia on the right wing. I'd never know which side had the ball!" Just, as you say, imagine.

34 mins Lots of men in white and red shirts are just sort of standing around looking at each other and occasionally jogging. But wait - here comes Pablo, skipping past Evra far too easily and putting in a low cross but only Soldado is anywhere near it and he's still miles away from it. Back down the other end Nani produces a foul backheel that ruins everything. No, no Nani.

36 mins a United free kick on the left in a really decent position but Nani absolutely toe-rags it into the wall and the chance is wasted. As far as I can tell he takes them because he's Portuguese and he can do a somersault. Valencia break and win a corner. Good defending by Ferdinand and then - ah ha - Nani to clear it.

39 mins Valencia are having more of the ball now but not doing that much with it. One lovely little exchange between Pablo and Miguel almost works some space on the right wing. Nani wins the ball and carries it away with a neat stepover. What you might almost call a toe-wag. Er. This kind of has the feeling of a 0-0 about it already. There. I've said it.

42 mins Plus points for United in patches: Carrick and Fletcher have looked quite comfortable. On the other hand Park and Evra have looked oddly shaky on the left. Miquel gets to the by-line again and puts in another good low cross that is cleared again inside a box that contains more red than white. Chris Logan writeS: "I'm no fan of Berbatov - give Owen the chance to show what he can still do if allowed - but your picture caption is a bit unfair. Hard to believe but check the stats at the end of the game and you may well find Berbatov has run further than most United players." Just needs to look more eager and spiffy while he's doing it. And maybe make an angry Paul Ince-style face.

44 mins Valencia win a corner that ends up in a swift United break which comes to nothing (unless Park falling over quite slowly can be interpreted as some kind of vague progress). That was almost a moment of high drama, relatively speaking.

45+1 mins HALF TIME. Valencia 0-0 Manchester United. That's that for now. A half that started off OK and then just slowly fizzled away into not very much. United will be happy with a clean sheet and Valencia don't look particularly terrifying. I'm off for a quick cup of "tea". Back in a moment with incisive analysis/barely-scanned emails pasted up thoughtlessly.

Not much to say about that half. the most 0-0 of 0-0s really. Fergal Downey is reminiscing: "I think I am right in saying that David Albelda is the man who twisted a testicle in the World Cup game between Ireland and Spain in 2002 and had to go off. Mick McCarthy famously didn't notice that Spain had gone down to 10 men as they had used all their subs. Question is how do you miss a man rolling on the ground screaming "I've twisted my testicles!!"?" Mick McCarthy has many gifts.

Chris Gibson asks: "It says something for the quality of this game that your readers started an impromptu game of "Call My Bluff" after just 20 minutes. Will you do the second half in the style of Sandi Toksvig?" Yes. Really unfunny jokes accompanied by a degree of smug giggling.

Max is sticking up quite rightly for the maligned Nani: "Is this Nani stuff serious? To be expected from Dunphy yes, but legitimate people? The guy's scored or assisted 8 of their last 11 goals. Admittedly he's been fairly poor tonight but the rest have been woeful."

46 mins United kick us off again. No subs on for either team and Fergie has been heard saying united will pass the ball about and hope Valencia tire this half. Bit odd. They are also top level footballers and all. Berbatov has just had a shout at someone! He's cross because they keep playing the ball to him in the air and there's no one to flick it on to. Go on Dimitar. Get cross.

48 mins Lee James mourns: "Do you remember when Man United were one of the most exciting sides around? Seems a long time ago now- it's funny what a little lack of money can do to a 'philosophy' of a supposed attacking team, and the fans want Mourinho next? Cripes." As if to resist this line of thinking Nani has a bit of a go down the right wing but it all comes to nothing. It all went wrong when they got Carlos Queiroz in. He likes a bit of canny mass defence.

50 mins A fine drive out of not much on the edge of the box by Pablo that flies just wide. Good strike that. Niall Harden and no one else asks: "Can I be the first of 1,057 to ask: Really unfunny jokes accompanied by a degree of smug giggling? Is Rob Smyth taking over at half time? Only joking Rob. Love you." Eh? Smyth is a MBM genius married with a Man Utd encyclopedia. You wish.

53 mins A good cross form the touchline by Nani that Berbatov fights for (yes - fights) and manages to lay off back to Nani but he's penalised by the ref for raising his foot half a centimeter above the turf. A toe-drag, no more. It's all walking pace again with United's best stuff coming down the right. They win their first corner but Nani gets involved yet again and floats it into the keeper's gloves. Yawn.

55 mins Oh yeah. Lovely little backheel by Anderson. Great touch. Plays in Carrick and United break but Matthieu manages to get a final touch just as Anderson is about to rampage into the box. Nice play from the chunky Brazilian creator/converted scuffler. Still no real sniff of a goal though.

57 mins There is now: Absolutely sublime control from Berbatov taking the ball down in a jiffy, then sprinting away from Navarro, carrying the ball in on goal and having a low shot that the keeper saves with his legs. That would have been a superlative goal. Great play from the moping Bulgarian dynamo. The corner comes to nothing but that was the best moment of the match so far. United look the better team right now. This is their moment you feel.

59 mins Aduriz comes on to play alongside Soldado up front to they've finally got two strikers on the pitch. Immediately Valencia win a corner and already that United box looks more crowded. Soldado has a spectacular but still rubbish volley at goal that bounces wide as he falls over. But that's more like it. The crowd roar. Jonathan Wittenberg writes: "Regarding Lee James's comment: Fergie's shift to more defensive tactics, far from a financially-compelled abandonment of philosophy, was a conscious shift of philosophy after having their more adventurous style of play exposed on more than one occasion, especially in Europe. Remember, when Queiroz arrived United were still big spenders (at least relative to today)."

62 mins The sub seems to have perked Valencia up and - oh dear - that's a terrible dive by Soldado, hurdling over Rafael's leg and trying to flop into the penalty area. The ref waves play on and vidic gives him The Eyes Of Death but really he should have been booked for that act of attempted cheating. Moments later Pablo has a great chance in space in the box but his touch is heavy and Nani stretches to block with a toe-jab.

65 mins The game has picked up after that Valencia substitution just as United were starting to throttle the home team. Has Fergie got anything in his locker to counteract it? Costa puts in another cross and Vidic defends it very well. United have faded a bit in games this season. Won't want to do it tonight in this stadium. Leighton Taylor has thought long and hard: "Random thought as my mind wanders while watching this boring guff. If wayne Rooney looks like Shrek then that Mata lad for Valencia looks like handsome shrek after he drinks the pretty potion in shrek two. Yep, im that bored." Well, it's better than what Andy Townsend's had to say so far.

68 mins More steady stuff now. At times this match is a case of quick-quick-slow without the quick-quick. Some kind of northern European protestant work-guilt ethic within me revolts at the sight of players walking around. It just feels wrong.

72 mins Evra scuttles forward and has a shot but it's blocked on the edge of the area. I can't dress it up any other way. Down the other end Matthieu makes a good break and crosses and Ferdinand defends very well, sliding in in front of Pablo. That was a tap-in if he missed it but he never looked like doing so. And, cripes Navarro has just stamped on Vidic quite viciously and got away with it. A really nasty one. Hope we have a corner or two after that. Could get tasty. between those two.

74 mins Decent twisting header from Soldado creeps just over the bar. And Manuel Fernandes has just come on - a boyhood friend of Nani from the downtown streets of Lisbon.

77 mins Brilliant play from Fernandes, jinking Nani-style away from Fletcher and then putting in a low hard shot that was going wide, Nani-style, but which Van der Saar still palms away. Anderson is off and Hernandez is on as an excellent corner by Fernandes drifts across goal and out of play. andrew Price asks: "is it raining? or are the Valencia players just abnormally sweaty?" Fame costs. And right here is where they start paying - in sweat.

80 mins Again Soldado almost gets his head to a cross close to goal and Valencia are finishing the stronger of two fairly lily-livered attacking forces tonight. United have simply faded out of this and they're hanging on for dull but functional away point. It's a dicey business.

83 mins A slow-burner from Valencia but you'd say they have been the stronger in this second half. Hernandez shows his good mobility to reach a long pass on the touchline and has a shot from a silly angle that is fairly easily saved. I see he got the nod ahead of Owen tonight. Fair enough. He is Javier Hernandez.

84 mins Hernandez hits the post from three yards. Nani jinks inside and crosses from the right. the ball bounced up and away from Hernandez and he was at full strength. Not really a genuine missed sitter - it would have been a stroke of luck if that had flown in off his studs.

85 mins GOAL! Valencia 0-1 Manchester United. Brilliant counter attack by United and a lovely finish by Hernandez. That was a really good goal. Nani plays the ball inside nicely to Macheda, who has just come on, he finds Hernandez and he skips away from Navarro to finish coolly low and hard into the corner. That was a really incisive break. Lovely goal.

87 mins Hernandez has had two touches: hit the post and scored. Valencia look really sick about it but great encouragement for United's young attacking guard coming to a place like this and taking the game at the end - as they may well have done.

90 mins Valencia don't seem to have a hit and hoof bone in their bodies so instead they attack desperately late on via a series of stately and considered passes. They win a corner though which Fernandes takes and it's headed away from inside a very crowded area and United can keep the ball for a bit.

90+2 mins Soldado is adjudged to have handled in the United box and everyone slows down a bit and shrugs and shakes their head wearily. Rafael comes off. O'Shea comes on and United are heading for their first win in spain since 2002.

90+3 mins Rangers also winning in the other match in this group by the way. Yes. Just sounds wrong doesn't it.

90+4 mins FULL TIME. Valencia 0-1 Manchester United. And there it is, Manchester United get the three points they really wanted after the draw with Rangers and it's a really big night for Hernandez in particular, who scored a very good goal. An excellent win for them and a controlled performance in the end. Thanks for all your emails. That's all from me. Goodbye. Barney.

This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.

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