Manchester United travel to the Mestalla to take on Valencia in their second Group C match in the UEFA Champions League, and with their backs already against the wall, the Red Devils can ill-afford dropping anymore points in this competition.
On Matchday 1, United drew nil-nil with Rangers at home and Valencia thumped Bursaspor 4-0 away from home, so now the Red Devils are in a position that they need to take some points off the Bats in this match if they have aspirations of winning Group C.
If they don’t, then they are looking at best a second-placed finish in the group, which means United would potentially face one of the big European powers in the opening knockout stages.
Sir Alex Ferguson knows just how critical this match is, because, last week, he chose to take a trip to Spain to watch Valencia/Atlético Madrid, and miss United’s 5-2 win over Scunthorpe United in the Fourth Round of the Carling Cup.
That match finished all square at one goal apiece, and that proves to be the only blemish on Valencia’s very good start to the season.
With their impressive start to the season, the Bats (Murciélagos) are sitting atop of not only Group C, but also La Liga – ahead of Barcelona and Real Madrid.
What makes this so impressive, is that Valencia, who are suffering from major financial problems, off-loaded both David Silva (Manchester City) and David Villa (Barcelona) this summer to help handle their troubles.
Admittedly, Ferguson said that there was only one player that he thought that would add something to the current United squad, so he made an inquiry about Villa, but, unfortunately, there was already an agreement with Barcelona in place, so he wasn’t even able to make attempt to lure him to Old Trafford.
Even with those two key players gone, Valencia has yet to miss a beat in terms of scoring as they have totaled nine goals in the Spanish Primera División.
As previously mentioned, they scored four in their opening match of this competition, so that is 13 goals in six games for an average of better than two goals per match.
When coupled with United’s poor defensive record so far, this should have the home side foaming at the mouth and full of confidence going forward.
On top of that, United have never fared well in Spain, with their only victory on Spanish soil coming in their epic 2-1 win over Bayern Munich in the 1999 UEFA Champions League final.
Joaquín Sánchez, who was once deemed a target of Sir Alex’s during his days at Real Betis, and Aritz Aduriz are Valencia’s leading goal scorers in La Liga with two goals each, which goes to show that they have more than just one option to keep an eye on.
Against Bursaspor, the Bats had four different goal scorers with Alberto Costa, Aduriz, Pablo and Roberto Soldado all finding the target in the one-sided away match.
However, there are two players in their midfield that United need to be wary of, Juan Mata and Pablo, who are both full internationals for Spain, because these wingers hold the key to Valencia going forward.
Pablo has filled in admirably for Vincente, who serves as the club’s captain, because the 29-year old has struggled with injuries this season.
Ricardo Costa, who was brought in from French-side Lille this summer, and David Navarro anchor the Valencia defense.
Costa should sound familiar to United supporters, because he has played against them twice – when he was with FC Porto and VfL Wolfsburg.
After the 2-2 draw with Bolton Wanderers this weekend, Sir Alex said that both Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand will be included in the team to face Valencia.
Rooney came off in the 60th minute and was seen icing his left ankle, which he turned in the match against Rangers, but his withdrawal from the match was simply because he was ineffective.
The exclusion of Ferdinand from the squad altogether was a bit concerning for United supporters, because either he cannot handle Nemanja Vidic being the long-term captain, or he is another Ledley King and can only play one match per week and Ferguson was saving him for Valencia.
Ryan Giggs was forced off within 10 minutes after half-time in the Bolton game after he picked up a hamstring strain, which will keep him out at least two weeks.
Manchester United cannot afford to lose this match against Valencia, but a draw, though, would not be such a bad thing, because it would not only keep the gap at just two points in the standings, but it is always a good to get a point away from home in the Champions League.
Out: A. Valencia (leg), R. Giggs (hamstring); Doubtful: O. Hargreaves (knee), M. Carrick (achilles), Probable: G. Obertan (ankle)
E. van der Sar; W. Brown, R. Ferdinand, N. Vidic, P. Evra; Anderson, P. Scholes, J. S. Park; Nani, D. Berbatov, M. Owen
Valencia CF 1, Manchester United 2