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Brief thoughts on Valencia friendly

Our first pre-season friendly at home, against Valencia, ended in a comfortable 2-0 win for us, but the match was quite open and promised more goals than the score sheet would indicate.

Since it’s pre-season, I’ll just cap it with brief thoughts on the match and leave the stage for you to take over.

Antonio Valencia started out quite lively for the first 25 minutes but faded a bit during the second part of the first half. However he came back quite strongly in the second half being instrumental in both of our goals. I have been quite impressed with Valencia every time I’ve seen him in pre-season. He gives our side the much needed pace and attacking threat. He also seems undaunted about taking people on, seems to have the necessary physical presence to force the issue, and also has great delivery from the flanks. He also is capable of shooting well as his debut goal for us showed and yesterday, when he stung the palms of the ‘keeper with a good strike.

Michael Owen interests me now more, not because of his four misses, but the fact that we finally have a striker who plays off the shoulder of the last defender rather than spends time tracking back in midfield. He’ll get service in plenty, and I hope his misses today don’t dent his confidence. If he continues to make his intelligent moves into the box, I think the goals will arrive.

I disagree with the notion that Wayne Rooney was fantastic. I thought he was just good; his through ball when he slipped Owen clear was a joy, and he his goal will do good for his confidence. Other than that, I think I’ve seen better days from him.

The midfield remains a worry — we have players indecisive (read: Carrick) or unwilling to dominate the centre of the park putting our defenders under duress. This will not work for me. I’ve long maintained throughout this summer that it is our biggest area of concern. No number of wingers are going to help against physically intimidating midfields like the Chelseas and Liverpools. Also when Ferguson talks about spreading the goals around, he needs contribution from midfield. A Lampard-like player (or a vintage-Scholes) who can score goals from midfield is of utmost importance. We have, in Darron Gibson, someone who not only has the ability to shoot, but is also not afraid to have a pop when given the chance.

De Laet continues his amazing climb up in reckoning for more first team starts this season than anyone would have anticipated when he was first signed. His tackles were clean and decisive and inch-perfect. He’s very comfortable on the ball too, and is not afraid to rampage forward when given the chance. He’s 20 years old, and I see a maturity far beyond his age. It’s just a couple of appearances where I’ve seen him in action, but I think we have a real gem on our hands. Fergie, cut him up right, we need this diamond.

I must say I was quite underwhelmed by Zoran Tosic. I’ve heard rumours of people not being too impressed with his outings for the reserves, and I didn’t see much yesterday for me to make much of him. I hope Ferguson starts Nani on Sunday. He needs to be our first choice winger on the left (with Antonio on the right).

In all a decent outing for the side, but Sunday would be a better test of our side’s mettle. Nothing else springs in my mind about yesterday’s friendly. However, do feel free to add yours in the comments…

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And sorry for pimping the other blog I run (on general footy, among other things) but I have a long essay on football fan behaviour there — I’m sure that would require a lot more of your time to read and process, so you’ve been warned.

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