Reds snatch late late Spanish win



Manchester United’s smash-and-grab raid on Spain’s third city brought three precious points to take Sir Alex Ferguson’s side top of Group C. For much of a dull encounter United sought to contain, only for substitute Javier Hernández to finish superbly with just five minutes on the clock and take just the second win in Spain in the club’s history.

It will prove a hugely satisfactory result for Ferguson, who had missed his side’s victory over Scunthorpe United last week to assess tonight’s opponents at first hand.

“I think the second half we certainly improved and had more penetration,” said Ferguson

“We had to make sure we were solid at the back and I don’t think they made many chances in the match.

“Macheda made a great run just before the goal and we needed that towards the end. It’s a great result for us, its not easy coming here. Our record over a long time (in Spain, isn’t good) but we’re pleased with that.”

Indeed, United started brightly, contesting possession evenly and packing midfield to eradicate the loose defending that has dogged the side’s away form this season. With Anderson playing closer to lone-striker Dimitar Berbatov than at almost any time in his three seasons with the club, and Michael Carrick shielding a defence that included the returning Rio Ferdinand.

The Brazilian who is so often lauded as United’s creative answer by supporters has rarely been used in a pure attacking role since his more to Europe in 2005. The return to an old role was only sporadically successful tonight, with the former Porto midfielder too often casual in possession.

If United’s start was positive, with  an extra body in midfield providing reassurance, then Unai Emry’s Valencia side also had its early moments. First, Pablo Hernández shot from 25 yards on the quarter-hour after Carrick had invited player to strike by failing to close down sufficiently. Then, moments later and Edwin van der Sar flapped at a cross from the left. Roberto Soldado, starting alone up front for the hosts, astonishingly missed a header with the goal at his mercy.

United’s first chance came from Berbatov’s brilliance; the Bulgarian flicking over Jérémy Mathieu and enabling Nani to cross only for Anderson to flick a left footed shot wide under pressure.

Yet neither side was able to string enough passes together to build any sense of momentum with the match settling into a midfield stalemate. Indeed, both sides were guilty of being wasteful in possession during the first half hour.

Pablo, with occasional support from Portuguese fullback Miguel Monteiro, offered Valencia the most promising outlet and the right-sided player had the better of Patrice Evra just before the break but failed to find a colleague when the home side looked certain to score.

Then Valencia’s star Juan Mata – quiet for most of the half – let loose with a stunning shot from 25 yards. Van der Sar palmed away, although the whistle had already gone. United: considered warned.

If Ferguson’s half-time call for United to use more possession wisely was on the mark, then his team finally began to heed the demand. Anderson, Park and Carrick – all wasteful in the first 45 – at last began to use the ball with more intelligence and break beyond United’s midfield.

Yet it was Berbatov who created United’s first chance of the second period, spinning David Navarro and shooting on target, only for César Sanchez to save at the near post. Berbatov needed to, with his closest colleague about 40 yards away.

The bright opening was fleeting though as the teams settled into an unambitious pattern save for the occasional United break forward. If United’s decision to keep things tight made sense against the La Liga leaders, then Valencia’s own lack of ambition exposed Los Che’s false position. This team, without Davids Silva and Villa, is a shadow of its former self.

Until late in the game that is, when ambition finally kicked in.

The chances came at last for the home side, with Manuel Fernandes testing van der Sar with 15 to go, Soldado inches wide from another cross and Mathieu fizzing a ball across United’s area. The Reds lack of minutes in the centre of the park finally began to tell as the home side sought a win its play would only just deserve.

Substitute Hernández almost scored with his initial involvement, first put through by Nani and firing straight at Valencia’s ‘keeper, and then at full stretch hitting the outside of the post.

Then the dénouement, with Hernández superbly finishing United’s lightening quick break. Nani’s run and then substitute Federico Macheda’s smart ball enabled the Mexican to steal away from Navarro with his first touch and hit the net with the second.

“He is a fantastic finisher. He took his goal as if he was shelling a pea, it was so natural to him,” Ferguson told Sky Sports.

“His pace and his penetration caused them a bit of bother.”

Brilliant stuff.

Match facts
United – 4231 – van der Sar; Rafael (O’Shea 90), Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Carrick, Fletcher; Nani, Anderson (Hernández 77), Park; Berbatov (Macheda 85).

Attendance: 52,689
Man-of-the-match: Vidic

Possession: Valencia 51% – 49% Man Utd
Attempts: 9 – 8
On target: 6 – 4
Corners: 6 – 3
Fouls: 14 – 8

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  • Don Pablo

    Brilliant. Relief to get 1-0 away from home, been a while. Rio looked solid alongside Vidic and 3 in the middle definately protected the back four better. Nani and to a lesser extent Anderson had some endevour and Rafael did his job better than his fellow fullback Evra. Good to see all the strikers stake their claim. We have more strenth indepth upfront than anytime last season. Lets build on this.

    • mongoletsi

      Agreed on Rafael. Much more assured defensively. Still some schoolboy errors tho… but… he’s a schoolboy :o)

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    wasn’t smash and grab, defence was comfortable vds made no saves, midfield was crap and couldn’t keep the ball but they were never allowed to take advantage

  • sheesh

    It was smash and grab to some extent. Valencia lacked a body in the box to take advantage of 2 or 3 stunning crosses. We created little up front but benefited from one of our very few decent efforts on goal. Valencia were the better team and deserved to win. Saying that, I thought we were much better in the 2nd half than we were in the 1st.

  • omg

    lucky didnt deserve to win valencia robbed im just a neutral and you were very lucky cant see you going very far this season think you had your day time for man u demise

  • brian

    yes united are back i said all a long evans was the problem . sunderland will say it all when we 2-o . we are back

  • Josh

    Thought Anderson looked quite promising in that role tonight. No, he wasn’t brilliant and was at times casual, but I’m willing to suggest that’s as much to do with lack of playing time as anything. I’d say Carrick was much more casual, and in much more dangerous areas.
    Thought he passed the ball well at times, and he looks much more at home there than he does deeper. I hope Fergie sticks with him there, he’s our only option in that position.

  • sidney

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    wasn’t smash and grab, defence was comfortable vds made no saves, midfield was crap and couldn’t keep the ball but they were never allowed to take advantage

    Aye, smash & grab is when you’d settle for a draw after being under the cosh for 90 minutes only to nick a winner in injury time e.g. O’Shea at Anfield

    Taking a midfielder off and putting a striker on was a conscious attacking change too

    Was a proper ruthless away Euro performance to be fair to Fergie. Why can’t we do that in the league.

  • Spike

    Frothing at the mouth every time those twats were getting away with little niggly fouls, was the Ref blind?, and that blatant STAMP on Vidic, well Linesman and Ref should be taken to the Garden Shed ( Sorry Alf, for stealing your expression).
    Had up to know a bit of respect for Valencia and what they have achieved…now they can f.off.

  • Triggs

    Both teams were average yesterday.

    Berba played and worked well up front on his own, especially as the midfield were very wasteful in possession. Rafa was exceptional and Rio looked good too.

    Carrick is getting his usual stick, but it was his first game back so we need to cut him slack. He was poor with the ball, but the defence looked far more comfortable with him shielding them. Park was very poor (again).

    We have ourselves a first class impact sub.

  • http://www.unitedrant.co.uk/forum/profile/admin Ed

    Unregistered User said:
    Thought Anderson looked quite promising in that role tonight. No, he wasn’t brilliant and was at times casual, but I’m willing to suggest that’s as much to do with lack of playing time as anything. I’d say Carrick was much more casual, and in much more dangerous areas.
    Thought he passed the ball well at times, and he looks much more at home there than he does deeper. I hope Fergie sticks with him there, he’s our only option in that position.

    Well we’ll see on Anderson. I’ve never been convinced he can play as a #10 and yesterday didn’t change my mind. He is wasteful in possession and I don’t think he understands the role tactically. Mind you all the players were wasteful yesterday.

    • Josh

      I think it’s frivolous to suggest he doesn’t understand the position. He played there from childhood in Brazil.

      Let’s just wait and see, I think he showed promise.

      Thing is, in that position, players are often ‘wasteful’; play two killer passes/assists though and you can go down as having a good game.

    • mongoletsi

      Anderson… considering he’s been out for ages… I think he did quite well, he looked promising 2nd half against Scunny too.

      Carrick… one good season, that’s all he’s had. Sort it out sunshine or you’ll be out!

  • http://www.unitedrant.co.uk/forum/profile/admin Ed

    Unregistered User said:
    I think it’s frivolous to suggest he doesn’t understand the position. He played there from childhood in Brazil.

    Let’s just wait and see, I think he showed promise.

    Thing is, in that position, players are often ‘wasteful’; play two killer passes/assists though and you can go down as having a good game.

    Name the games, show me the stats to prove he can play that role…

    I keep hearing this over and over, its like some kind common knowledge that has developed based not on fact but media commentary. Anderson played as a 17 year old in the ‘meia’ role but he certainly hasn’t done it since coming to Europe in 2005, and I saw plenty enough of Porto around that time.

    Darren Fletcher was technical attacking midfielder at 16 too, Fergie wanted to put him in the side against Aston Villa and the Premier League blocked it. Years later and he was found out as an attacking player and done well to create a role as a defensive one.

    Point being that just because Anderson played this role as a kid, in Brazil, with all the freedom that entailed, doesn’t mean he can do it for United in the Premier League. Tactical knowledge – no I don’t think so, he took up a position forward of Carrick/Fletcher but he wasn’t the hub of United’s play, spent most of the game hanging round Albelda rather than between the lines.

    As for nonsense that somehow creative players are wasteful Xavi and Inesta might question that.

    • Josh

      Well, although Xavi is of course a creative player, he plays much deeper. Additionally, Xavi and Iniesta are pretty special players. We shouldn’t expect Anderson to be putting shifts in like these guys, especially as these stats reflect a very dominant game, even by Barca’s standards. It’s also probably worth pointing out that Iniesta took a while to get off the ground.

      If you look at Wesley Sneijner’s stats for the world cup (I think I’m right in assuming Sneijder is considered among the top creative midfielders in the business) he had a pass completion rate of 70% (http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/statistics/players/player=215002/index.html). That’s lower than the example you provided for Anderson’s performance last night.
      Similarly, Mesit Ozil (a player who was championed on this site) was equally ‘wasteful’, with a pass completion rate of 71% (http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/statistics/players/player=305036/index.html)
      Finally, Iniesta’s pass completion rate was 73% (http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/statistics/players/player=183857/index.html)

      Of course, I’m not saying Anderson is better than Sneijder, Ozil or Iniesta, I’m just saying that players who play in the advanced creative position often have a lower passing success rate as their options are much more limited than passers of the ball in deeper positions.

      Ok, so you might be right that there’s a lot media hearsay on Anderson’s ability in that position. But I too watched a fair bit of Porto at that time, and I although I can’t find the stats, I’m fairly sure he was more accustomed to that position than he is now.

      Additionally, him ‘hanging around Albelda’ was much to do with a diktat directly from Fergie, who was shown telling Anderson to get tight to him.

      • Josh

        EDIT: Accidentally put the wrong twitter address in. Excuse the mistake/picture. It’s not me/my account ha.

  • mongoletsi

    Is there no recourse to have that filthy cunt Navarro punished? Not just for his holding of Nani’s legs, but more for that nasty and intentional stamp on Vidic. He wasn’t booked at all was he? Filthy nasty bastard.

  • sidney

    I agree with Ed, Ando isn’t a number 10. Rooney is our number 10 and he will be until he leaves.

    After the cunt pissed off to Brazil and tried to force through a transfer, it looks like Fergie is gonna be more lenient with him and play him further forward, which is a good thing. I’d rather he play off a striker than as the deepest midfielder.

    But he’s no number 10. I go back to the question I posed months ago; what is his best position. How do we get the best out of a Brazilian like him in a European team.

  • Triggs

    Never understood this Ando is a no.10 business. If he wasn’t Brazilian it wouldn’t even be discussed. Can’t think of too many goals he’s ever created for United and he’s only ever scored once (I think).

    He did alright yesterday, but he needs to stop dithering on the ball and move it quicker.

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I could swear that I heard, Andersons’ favoured position was left back.

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    hed make a belting leftback in fairness

  • http://www.unitedrant.co.uk/forum/profile/admin Ed

    Unregistered User said:
    Well, although Xavi is of course a creative player, he plays much deeper. Additionally, Xavi and Iniesta are pretty special players. We shouldn’t expect Anderson to be putting shifts in like these guys, especially as these stats reflect a very dominant game, even by Barca’s standards. It’s also probably worth pointing out that Iniesta took a while to get off the ground.

    If you look at Wesley Sneijner’s stats for the world cup (I think I’m right in assuming Sneijder is considered among the top creative midfielders in the business) he had a pass completion rate of 70% (http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/statistics/players/player=215002/index.html). That’s lower than the example you provided for Anderson’s performance last night.
    Similarly, Mesit Ozil (a player who was championed on this site) was equally ‘wasteful’, with a pass completion rate of 71% (http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/statistics/players/player=305036/index.html)
    Finally, Iniesta’s pass completion rate was 73% (http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/statistics/players/player=183857/index.html)

    Of course, I’m not saying Anderson is better than Sneijder, Ozil or Iniesta, I’m just saying that players who play in the advanced creative position often have a lower passing success rate as their options are much more limited than passers of the ball in deeper positions.

    Ok, so you might be right that there’s a lot media hearsay on Anderson’s ability in that position. But I too watched a fair bit of Porto at that time, and I although I can’t find the stats, I’m fairly sure he was more accustomed to that position than he is now.

    Additionally, him ‘hanging around Albelda’ was much to do with a diktat directly from Fergie, who was shown telling Anderson to get tight to him.

    And Xavi’s pass completion rate was 81% during the World Cup – conveniently missed I might add. But let’s leave that and talk about Anderson’s creativity, since ‘all he needs is one or two killer passes’ – 13 assists during his time in Europe. Mesut Ozil, a player you cite as an example, created 11 last season alone in an average Werder side.

    Truth is Fergie has always deployed Anderson as a more defensive player – he did so yesterday too, just in an advanced position. Much as Park played against Milan in last season’s second round.

    Why? Because he doesn’t trust Anderson as a creative force. Why would he. The player’s never shown he can do it.

    • Josh

      Nothing convenient about it Ed, I think I aptly covered it when I explained about players who are stationed deeper, i.e. like Xavi.

      I might add that you very conveniently refused to acknowledge the stats I provided.

      Yep, fair enough, not enough assists, far fewer than Ozil, but I would argue that’s as much down to the fact that he’s played much deeper than Ozil, at least while at United.

  • Redsmoke

    Ando is an interesting player. I thought he did well holding the ball and always felt he was best if he dribbled a bit cause he has a good burst with the ball to get by opponents.

    However his passing is woeful and I don’t think any defender wouldn’t give him space as he’s not known for any long range shot.

    These stats don’t mean much to me. I’m all for an attacking mf not having a great ratio if the balls that are not getting through are good creative passes that make the defense work. For me ando doesn’t provide enough of that and also isn’t very good at the simple pass either. He doesn’t have the vision to be an out and out #10. A box to box mf suits ando better.

    also anyone notice Ando made a great cross field pass to nani yesterday and then just stopped and admired his pass instead of continuing a run into the box to try to get back on the end of nani’s cross?

  • http://www.sourceofgravity.com Bill

    Again we are back to the same old chestnut – the need for a quality attacking/creative midfield player!

    Anderson , Gibson & Park are squad players. Carrick plays deeper, but is also a squad player. Hargreaves is an unknown quantity due to injury. That leaves Fletcher & an ageing Scholes.

    Of the younger creative players Cleverley & Eikrem look the pick, but again are unknown quantities are first team level. Corry Evans is an engine room man.

    That leads us back to the likes of Ozil & Van Der Vaart! Both exactly what we needed. The only thing I can think that blocks things financially would be their wages. The transfer fees were surely not an issue.

    XXXXXXX Glazers!

  • http://www.unitedrant.co.uk/forum/profile/admin Ed

    Unregistered User said:
    Nothing convenient about it Ed, I think I aptly covered it when I explained about players who are stationed deeper, i.e. like Xavi.

    I might add that you very conveniently refused to acknowledge the stats I provided.

    Yep, fair enough, not enough assists, far fewer than Ozil, but I would argue that’s as much down to the fact that he’s played much deeper than Ozil, at least while at United.

    You need me to ‘acknowledge your comments’? Come now everybody can read it – are you really that insecure. You’ve quoted a reliable source so that’s fair enough – although I’ll hazard that some of the poor stats reflect the defensive nature of that tournament, played with a dodgy ball and at altitude which made passing difficult.

    Paul Scholes’ passing is at 92% this year by the way, and he doesn’t just play safe square balls.

    But this is the crux – you think Anderson can play as a #10 because of what? He can’t pass over short, medium or long distances, at least not with any accuracy, but hey that doesn’t matter because he’ll play a killer ball… except over his career he’s proven to not be creative – there are no stats to back that claim up even before United. He can’t even claim to be a goalscorer.

    Grêmio – 5 apps, 1 goal at Serie B / 14 apps, 4 goals in state league
    Porto – 18 apps, 2 goals, 1 assist
    United – 102 apps, 1 goal, 12 assists
    Brazil – 8 apps, 0 goals, 0 assists

    • Josh

      Now you’re being juvenile. I don’t need you to acknowledge anything, I just thought it was rich that you suggested I was being ‘convenient’ when you ‘conveniently’ didn’t take the stats into account.

      All that about the ability to pass the ball in altitude etc. is complete conjecture.

      I would argue that Anderson can in fact pass the ball well, though he sometimes doesn’t I agree (Suggesting he can’t pass the ball is very unfair).
      As I mentioned earlier, Iniesta was a slow starter, and often derided, but he was given chance.
      The stats you posted admittedly don’t point to a glittering career thus far, but my argument is that he’s shown glimpses of ability to play the advanced midfield position, and should be given a chance; and those stats largely reflect playing in a deeper role.

      Interesting you should mention Fletcher earlier, as he was given plenty of time after coming in for a hell of lot of abuse. I’m sure his stats were very poor at one point, but he benefited from trust and a decent run of games.

      There’s a creative hole, we all acknowledge that. All I’m suggesting is that Anderson be given the chance to play the position that I believe he can.

      • http://www.unitedrant.co.uk/forum/profile/admin Ed

        Josh –

        Here’s a player who neither creates nor scores goals, and who’s passing stats over a career are average at best. He has played the role you suggest of him not once since 2007 and – until you dig out heatmaps to prove otherwise – I don’t recall doing it between 2005-7 either. (and if he did with no conspicuous success).

        Mind you if he does what he has proven he can do on occasion at United we have an excellent all -rounder box-to-box midfielder.

        The rest, as you say, is just conjecture.

        • mongoletsi

          You don’t recall him, well, “shitting on Fabregas”?

          Although in general you are right about him. But give him a run, there is *some* promise there.

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    surely cesc got more than eleven assists, he normally gets twenty odd

    • http://www.unitedrant.co.uk/forum/profile/admin Ed

      Knob – duh yeah I forgot about PL. Cesc got 13, Lampard 17, Xavi 14. And they’re all deeper players anyway. Not sure it changes my point any?