Manchester United may have cemented their spot as Champions League Group C winners but it was a frustrating performance and one which did little to spark the imagination.
The best performer on the night was Anderson who again put in a dynamic showing in the middle of the park. The Brazilian was full of energy and running and was at times able to provide that bit of quality needed to open up the defence. He carried on from where he left off against Blackburn Rovers with some fantastic passing from deep positions – his ball to put Dimitar Berbatov through on goal deserved far more than the weak effort from the Bulgarian.
Anderson also looked dangerous when in threatening positions himself, taking his goal extremely well. In continuing his run he showed the kind of desire to make things happen as many other midfielders would have stopped their run on the edge of the box. The former Porto man may have shot tamely at the Valencia goal when clean through in the first half but the fact he was breaking from midfield and going beyond the front two again showed the requisite desire which could well make him a key figure for United this season. The training staff may need to put a little more work in with him to get his fitness up to the required level as he did become anonymous towards the end of either half but if he can do this he may well cement his place in the United engine room, and on current form looks as if he may get the nod for next weeks’ crunch clash against Arsenal.
Anderson’s partner in the middle of the park cut a frustrating figure for much of the evening. Michael Carrick has the potential in his game to be a really top player and has showed at times, especially in his first two seasons at United, what a player he can be. However, too often in this encounter he was slow in possession, giving the ball away. Carrick was at fault for the Spanish side’s goal when dallying and losing the ball in an extremely dangerous position. The England man has to step up his game as United need all their squad at the peak of their powers with an extremely demanding Christmas period around the corner.
Following the match against Blackburn, which saw everything come off for the United front two, Berbatov and Wayne Rooney would be forgiven for thinking all matches would go that way. However, in this encounter it was the opposite as neither had any luck in front of goal. Rooney was the better performer on the night and was extremely unlucky to strike the bar with a fantastic effort in the first half, whereas Berbatov, following his five goal haul, strangely looked uncomfortable in goalscoring positions. When one-on-one in the first half his belief in his ability seemed to be lost and the confidence expected to be shown by a player on the back of his stunning display against Blackburn was missing. United fans will be hoping the in-form Berbatov shows up when Arsene Wenger’s side travel to Old Trafford on Monday.
United may have progressed as group winners but there was little from the performance to savour. A huge improvement is required come the last 16.
21 Rafael – 15 Vidic – 5 Ferdinand – 20 Fabio
17 Nani – 8 Anderson – 16 Carrick – 13 Park
10 Rooney – 9 Berbatov
50 – 12 Smalling on for 5 Ferdinand
81 – 11 Giggs on for 17 Nani
90 – 24 Fletcher on for 8 Anderson