Spain’s Valencia comes to Old Trafford on Tuesday night hoping to register their first away win over Manchester United and collect the three points which will take them to the top of Group C. Three previous visits produced two draws and a defeat. With both sides assured of progressing to the knockout stage of the Champions League, another honourable draw will not surprise especially if Sir Alex Ferguson decides to field a starting line up with one eye upon the top of the table clash against Arsenal on Monday.
United have to go back to December 1999 for their only home defeat of Valencia in vastly different circumstances. It was a must win game which came on the back of a two goal defeat at Fiorentina. Led by an inspirational Roy Keane, United did just that with a sparkling display which eased United into the quarter finals.
Manchester United 3 v Valencia 0
Paul Walker from PA Sport reported on the night that – As perfect days go, it doesn’t come much better than this for Manchester United. Roy Keane slammed home a cracking opening goal as United recaptured the form which had taken them all the way to the European title last season. United knew they dare not lose after the defeat in Florence a fortnight ago.
The roar of approval battered the ears of United and their Spanish opponents and set the high octane level of a performance that was sustained by Sir Alex Ferguson’s men throughout. Ferguson had been quick to admit that United had not recaptured their European form of last season but they managed it tonight. Keane was the guide and inspiration, David Beckham the architect at his very best, while the rest of the side clicked into top gear in spectacular fashion to inflict Valencia’s first defeat in European competition this season.
Valencia could have been ahead after just 40 seconds when when Claudio Lopez saw a snap shot from 12 yards beaten away by Raimond van der Gouw and then his follow up shot held by the Dutch goalkeeper. But from then on the first half was one of growing mastery by the European champions, who knew they needed a solid performance and result to wipe away the memory of that awful defeat by Fiorentina.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer forced a low, diving save from Andres Palop before Ryan Giggs produced a high speed run and a deflected chip that fractionally missed the post. Valencia were relying on the pace of Lopez on his own up front, and it was generally an uneven battle with Jaap Stam and Gary Neville – the full back moved into the centre of defence to counter the Argentinian’s blinding speed. Lopez did try an audacious 40 yard chip that looked for a second or two that it would clear van der Gouw but the back pedalling keeper clutched the ball above his head.
With Keane controlling the midfield, United increased their tempo and when Neville’s ball into the box was headed out by Miroslav Djukic after 38 minutes, there was Keane with a 25 yard rocket which flashed into the bottom corner.
Lopez and Garcia Oscar both threw away further chances to get Valencia back into the game early in the second half following a second United goal three minutes after the restart. Beckham’s ball in from the right was met by Solskjaer on the near post to stab the ball home fully justifying his inclusion in the side at Dwight Yorke’s expense.
Cole had a wonderful chance to increase the lead after 61 minutes when he collected a Keane chip but the third was not long in coming. Beckham was again the architect with a curling 69th minute free kick and there was England colleague Paul Scholes making the perfectly timed run to crash an unstoppable header into the top corner.
Manchester United – Van Der Gouw, P. Neville, G. Neville, Stam, Irwin, Beckham, Keane, Scholes (Butt 71), Giggs, Cole (Yorke 71), Solskjaer – Goals – Keane 38, Solskjaer 47, Scholes 69.
Valencia – Palop, Angloma, Djukic, Bjorklund, Pellegrino, Carboni, Farinos, Milla, Mendieta, Lopez (Vlaovic 84), Oscar (Sanchez 68).
That campaign had a disappointing end however. After obtaining an encouraging scoreless draw against Real Madrid at the Bernabeau, the anticipated passage into the semi finals never happened as United were unexpectedly defeated 2-3 at Old Trafford. Real then went on to win its eight title with a comfortable 3-0 defeat of Valencia in an all Spanish final in Paris.
Will a draw against Valencia be satisfactory at Old Trafford?