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United wins group – just as Ferguson ordered

It was not easy but the job was completed in the end. Mind you, had only half the chances created by Manchester United been taken, the game could have been won before half time. Not for the first time this season, good opportunities went begging and United nearly paid a heavy price when Pablo gave Valencia the lead against the run of play just after the half hour. It took an all too rare Anderson equaliser after 62 minutes to get the one point needed to ensure top place in the group.

Although both sides had already qualified for the next round, winning the group meant that some of the big guns like Barcelona, Real Madrid and quite likely Bayern Munich will be avoided. United are also assured of not meeting any other Premier League club. The opponents will come from current European Champions Inter Milan, AC Milan, Lyon and FC Copenhagen who all finished runners up in their groups. Roma, Marseille and possibly Shakhtar Donetsk favoured to make up the rest. The draw will be made on December 17.

Manchester United 1 v Valencia 1

Daily Mirror – Relief was the overriding emotion for Manchester United as a rare Anderson goal spared them a last 16 meeting with Barcelona or Real Madrid. Avoiding defeat to Valencia and finishing top of Group C ensured United will face an ostensibly easier task when the last 16 draw is made in Nyon a week on Friday, unable to be drawn against fellow group winners Barca or Real.

Having watched Barca demolish Real 5-0 with ruthless contempt in El Clasico, Fergie was desperate to avoid meeting Pep Guardiola’s formidable side so early on in the knockout stage, and a point against Valencia ensured they achieved that aim. United’s unlikely saviour was Anderson. The midfielder has scored just two goals in 109 appearances, but in the context of this season’s Champions League campaign, last night’s effort – his first at Old Trafford – was one of potentially huge significance. Full Report

Uefa.com – It was mission accomplished for Manchester United FC as Anderson’s second-half equaliser earned them the point required to finish top of Group C. Valencia, who like United were already assured a last-16 place, overtook United for a short while at the summit after Pablo Hernández’s 32nd-minute opener, but United’s deserved equaliser fulfilled Sir Alex Ferguson’s pre-match wish to “avoid some of the big guns” in the draw on Friday week.

Both teams featured surprises in their lineups with Sir Alex giving a UEFA Champions League debut to goalkeeper Ben Amos while Valencia coach Unai Emery made seven changes from their last Liga outing, handing first starts in the tournament to goalkeeper Vicente Guaita and centre-back Ángel Dealbert. Despite the sub-zero temperature, there would be little risk of Guaita, in particular, getting cold. Full Report

Manchester Evening News – Manchester United earned the point they required to top Champions League Group C against Valencia at Old Trafford. The Reds fell behind when a mistake by Michael Carrick gifted possession to Alejandro Dominguez, who in turn set Pablo Hernandez up to beat Ben Amos after 32 minutes. Anderson equalised for United, the Brazilian quickest to react after Valencia goalkeeper Vicente Guaita had parried Ji-sung Park’s shot.

Having finished top of the group, the Special One from Madrid and the special ones from Barcelona can wait for another day as United achieved their mission of avoiding the big-hitters in the December 17 last 16 draw in Switzerland. The spectre of Jose Mourinho, Cristiano Ronaldo and a Barca side heavily laden with Spanish World Cup winners was a possible ‘prize’ had the Reds lost this one. Full Report

Manchester United – Amos, Rafael, Vidic, Ferdinand (Smalling 50), Fabio, Nani (Giggs 80), Carrick, Anderson (Fletcher 89), Park, Berbatov, Rooney. Goal – Anderson (62m)

ValenciaGuaita, Miguel, Ricardo Costa, Dealbert, Mathieu, Pablo (Feghouli 81) Banega, Albelda, Jordi Alba (Mata 67), Dominguez (Isco 54), Aduriz. Goal  – Pablo (32m)

Who will be your preferred opponent in the next round?

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