MANCHESTER United new-boy Javier Hernandez chose the perfect time to net his first competitive goal for the Red Devils as his 85th-minute winner proved too much for Valencia.
Although United rarely looked like breaking their sequence of three successive goalless draws in Spain, Alex Ferguson will not care too much about that.
The mere fact Hernandez’s goal, drilled expertly into the far corner after fellow substitute Federico Macheda had cut a cross back from the right, proved United with only their second victory in 19 attempts against Spanish opposition on Spanish soil tells you just how hard it is.
Ferguson hailed the contribution of supersub Hernandez. “I think the second-half we improved, had more penetration about us, but when you come here you have to make sure you’re solid at the back,” he said.
“I don’t think they made any really great chances, but they’re always a threat because they play good football.
“I think what Chico did was he brought in penetration. There was a moment before he scored his goal where made a great run in behind them, and that’s what we needed at that stage of the game.
Ferguson added: “It’s a great result for us. It’s not easy coming here. We’re pleased to win.”
Although he broke his English duck in bizarre fashion in the Community Shield, to get his first competitive goal offers Hernandez a chance to build his United career free from pressure.
“It was a great night,” said Hernandez. “I am so happy about the goal but also it was important to get the win and the three points.
“I always used to watch the Champions League when I was back home in Mexico.
“It is one of the most important tournaments in the world, so I was always keeping up with it.
“The goal will give me so much confidence. I am only at the start of my career with United and to score so early in the Champions League is a big boost.
“It is great to be a Manchester United player and I want that to continue for a long time.”
Instead of having ground to make up in the battle to reach the knock-out phase, United can now look forward to back-to-back clashes with Group C makeweights Bursaspor knowing six points will virtually secure their place in the last 16 of this season’s Champions League.
Dimitar Berbatov last started a match in this competition in Moscow 11 months ago. It was 12 months prior to that since his last goal.
He came close to ending the drought when he cut inside from the left touchline where he spent so much time and curled a shot just wide.
That represented the sum total of United’s threat to the Valencia goal, although, with Rio Ferdinand back to reinforce their own rearguard, they looked far more secure than in recent weeks and restricted their hosts to general pressure rather than clear-cut opportunities.
Their best came through a rare mistake from Edwin van der Sar, who completely failed to cut out Alejandro Dominguez’s right-wing cross.
Roberto Soldado seemed to be waiting more in hope than expectation of getting his head on the ball and it showed as he reacted to what was actually a clear sight of goal far too slowly and turned it over.
It looked for all the world like ending in a stalemate; Hernandez had other ideas.
VALENCIA: Cesar, Miguel, Navarro, Maduro, Mathieu, Pablo, Albelda (Topal 86), Costa (Fernandes 74), Mata, Dominguez (Aduriz 59), Soldado.
MAN UTD: Van der Sar, Rafael Da Silva (O’Shea 90), Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Carrick, Fletcher, Anderson (Hernandez 77), Nani, Berbatov (Macheda 85), Park.
Ref: Viktor Kassai (Hungary).
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