Valencia took all three points to secure maximum seeding for their relegation to the Europa League knockout round. The 2-1 victory was thanks to a wonderfully worked goal by Carlos Soler and an embarrassing own goal from Phil Jones early on in the second half. Marcus Rashford clawed one back for the visitors to get his second goal of the week. It was a game that didn’t mean too much for the visitors, though, as qualification was guaranteed before the game.
Valencia Take Their Chances as United Give Fringe Players a Chance
Despite the loss, Manchester United won’t be too disheartened as they still qualified as group runners-up and rested key players for a much more important game this upcoming weekend. As long as United can pick up points against Liverpool this game will be forgotten pretty quickly.
United travelled to Spain tonight knowing they had already qualified for the knockout round. Mourinho’s men were fresh from their biggest win of the season so far after a 4-1 thrashing of Fulham. Both teams have gained less than ten points in their last five domestic games. They went into the tie hoping to please their fans after starts to their respective seasons.
Mourinho took advantage of the fact his team had guaranteed qualification and rested key players such as David De Gea and Rashford. This allowed fringe players such as Sergio Romero and Marcos Rojo a chance to try and impress the Portuguese coach.
Valencia put out a stronger side as they pushed to give their players a morale boost in their difficult time this season. On-loan Michy Batshuayi had extra incentive to play well as he aimed to impress onlooking Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri. Toni Lato made his Champions League debut for the home side but was taken off injured after a series of heavy tackles.
Valencia Take Early Lead and Jones Own Goal Extends Margin
Valencia fired ahead 16 minutes into the first half thanks to forward Carlos Soler. The ball was passed around nicely in a patient build up. Rojo failed to close down the ball before it was crossed against the United area. Phil Jones headed the ball away but only as far as Soler who smashed the ball past Romero, who was rooted to his spot.
Jones made United’s night worse shortly after the second half got underway. He tried intercepting a ball played by Soler for Batshuayi but instead slid the ball past Romero as Valencia doubled their lead. In defence of the English centre-back, Romero came rushing out, out of position, which helped the ball bobble into the back of the net.
Rashford’s Second Goal in a Week a Positive Sign
Substitute Rashford gave his team hope as he clawed one back with three minutes to go. Marouane Fellaini did well to keep the ball in before playing the ball to Ashley Young. The young England striker leapt in the air to meet the cross and make the score 2-1.
Manchester United were slow most of the game, with both full-backs failing to make significant runs forwards. This flat play allowed Valencia to press high up the pitch and threaten the United goal throughout the first half. Rojo came off for Young which saw more darting runs down the left-hand side.
The first shot from a United player came in the 30th minute after Juan Mata’s effort was deflected wide. The shot came shortly after Lato and Valencia clashed for the second time in the match, as the home defender fouled United’s Ecuadorian. Both players received a yellow card as each were determined to mark their authority on the game down the left flank.
Manchester United Showed Passion Defensively
Eric Bailly was the third player in quick succession to get booked as the first half grew feistier and feistier. More cards followed throughout the game in an encounter full of big challenges from both sets of players. Critics will say it showed a lack of discipline but fans will claim it was just a showing of passion.
Andreas Pereira came close with an excellent shot from 25-yards out halfway through the second half. The power of the shot was matched by a great save to ensure Valencia kept control of the match.
Late Surge From United Nearly Rescued a Point
Mata came close to an equaliser in the dying embers of the game, miss-kicking a lobbed pass from Paul Pogba. It would have been a remarkable swivel volley from the Spaniard, who was visiting his former club.
Bring on Liverpool This Weekend
Overall, it was a tame performance from United but a convincing win for Valencia. Mourinho will be disappointed not to have won as Juventus lost 2-1 to bottom of the group Young Boys. This means Manchester United will be in the draw as unseeded and can face the likes of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona. Valencia will be hoping to use the momentum going forward as they attempt to climb up the league table.