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Manchester United 1-1 Valencia: Anderson’s Second Half Strike Sends United Through As Group Winners

When it comes to entertaining, there won’t be too many 1-1 draws that top Tuesday’s stalemate with Valencia.

That actually may well not be true, but when I look back at the snooze fest that much of the first meeting was (and it literally was – I napped for the better part of a half hour of match time and didn’t miss a thing), it’s safe to say that the showdown at Old Trafford was well on the other end of the spectrum.

I’m not one to frivolously hand out praise to opponents, so it’s saying something when I give a nod to Valencia. They weren’t afraid to force the issue in attack even with United breaking time and again, and it paid off. Pablo and Alejandro Dominguez were both very lively, and had Dominguez not pulled up lame in the second half, Valencia might well have been able to do what they needed to win the group.

My biggest praise, however, is for young keeper Vicente Guaita. In his Champions League starting debut, he produced a fine performance, denying United on multiple occasions to keep Valencia in it. If there’s a man of the match award for the opposition, I’d hand it to him, because without his saves (and United’s wastefulness, which will be addressed soon enough), United would have had the three points going away.

In the end though, it was one of those many saves that actually cost him, as it went into the path of an unlikely scorer, and it proved to be enough for United to earn a point and top the group.

From an attacking standpoint, the theme of the night was wastefulness. United certainly took the game to Valencia from the outset, and with first one chance then another opening up, it seemed like only a matter of time before they took the lead.

But as I said, the theme of the night was wastefulness, and there was an especially significant 20-minute stretch that should’ve ended with United up at least 1-0, if not 2-0 or 3-0. To be fair, Guaita had a hand (literally!) in a few of those missed opportunities, but there’s no denying the fact that Dimitar Berbatov could have and should have buried the ball in the back of the net when he had the young keeper and the goal at his mercy. But instead of going for a little chip that would’ve done the trick, Berbatov elected to try to go around Guaita, who all too gladly took the ball off of him.

It was that kind of night for Berbatov, but it wasn’t all him. Anderson saw a couple of chances pass him by, and then shortly after the half hour mark, Guaita made an amazing save to deny Park after Rooney had teed him up to unleash a rocket.

Against lesser sides, such wastefulness might not come back to haunt you, but against a determined and confident Valencia side, it did almost immediately after that Guaita’s save, in the form of United being scored on for the first time in the Champions League this season. Carrick’s confusion and eventual loss of possession was a head-scratcher, to say the least, and it was also disastrous, as Dominguez took the ball and drew a trio of defenders to him as he made his run towards the area, which left Hernandez completely unmarked to receive his pass and fire past a helpless Ben Amos.

Often when United fall behind, my nerves leave me, but with the amount of chances that had been created and the knowledge that United have been a second-half team all season long, there wasn’t any need to be nervous.

It took a lot longer than expected for United to finally get one past Guaita, but it wasn’t without a lack of effort on his part, as he made a tremendous save from another Park rocket. This time, however, it ended up at the feet of Anderson, who drove the rebound home to level the match.

Both sides had their chances to score a second, but it was United who had to hold on, as Valencia needed to press for the win, and on one too many occasions, were gifted a near-chance to do so thanks to some sloppy possession on United’s part.

But at full time, United had reason to celebrate, with the draw securing the point needed to assure top spot of Group C.

So, what was there to like and not like about the match?


– We created chances upon chances upon chances. That’s what you want to see ahead of next week’s big ‘uns.

– I live for a glorious attacking performance, but it’s hard not to take notice of how much Rafael is coming into his own at right back. He may be relatively small in stature, but he’s got a big game and a big future.

– I won’t say much here since the next post will be about him, but what a long way Anderson has come in a short time. He had a couple of missed opportunities in the first half, but he made up for it with a clinical poacher’s finish in the second half. It’s clear that he has a lot to offer United in attack, and Fergie would be wise to try to get the most out of that. A well, well-deserved goal.

– Ben Amos did what was asked of him for the most part. His kicking left a little something to be desired, but that’s something that will improve with match experience. There was nothing he could have done about Valencia’s goal, as that was all down to Carrick and a fine move between Dominguez and Hernandez.


– United should have had much more than just one goal, there’s no doubt about that. Whether it was Berbatov, Anderson, Park, or Rooney, or the reflexes of Guaita, United just didn’t make the most of the many, many chances that presented themselves.

– Berbatov’s performance as a whole was disappointing. Unsurprising? Not in the least. When you come in having scored five in your most recent outing, it’s going to be easy to overthink, overplay, and underachieve. Sometimes it’s your night, sometimes it’s not, and it just wasn’t his night.

– Carrick’s error wasn’t the only bad giveaway, as we had almost as many of those as we did in the first meeting against Valencia. Several of them came in the second half when Valencia were looking to fashion a late winner, but fortunately they didn’t lead to disaster.

Three points are always ideal, but only a draw was needed, so from that standpoint, the job was done as it needed to be.

Sealing top spot means avoiding the likes of Barcelona or Real Madrid, and that’s a definite plus. Based on the percentages, it’s quite likely that United will be drawn with a relatively familiar opponent, with Inter Milan, AC Milan, AS Roma, Lyon, and FC Copenhagen, along with Marseille, in the mix.

One certainly can’t presume and assume, as a lot can happen between now and February, but United should be favored to advance to the quarterfinals for the fifth straight year, no matter who’s pulled out of the hat.

Next up? A Monday visit from Arsenal, with a win against the Gunners putting United top of the table heading into the following Sunday’s showdown at Stamford Bridge. Should be fun.