|1||Van der Sar|
Victory in Valencia was no mean feat. Los Che currently top La Liga, ahead of Spanish football's traditional giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, and went into the game boasting an 11-game unbeaten home run in European competition. What’s more, the Reds achieved the win without Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, all of whom missed the flight to Spain through injury. Rio Ferdinand returned for his third start of the season, however, and showed no sign of the back and knee injuries that have forced him to miss 61 of United's last 103 fixtures. His sliding interception on 71 minutes was vital, just as Valencia were showing signs of moving in for the kill.
Despite an appalling record in Spain – just one win in 18 previous attempts – the Reds began with plenty of attacking intent. Indeed, for long periods in the first half Sir Alex’s men appeared to drift into a 4-2-4 formation, with Ji-sung Park and Anderson pushed up on the Valencia defenders and Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick sitting deep. Man-of-the-moment Dimitar Berbatov fired off the game’s first shot on four minutes, capping a slaloming run with a 25-yard strike that passed just the wrong side of the woodwork.
Valencia, shorn in the summer of striking stars David Villa (Barcelona) and Nikola Zigic (Birmingham City), and without the creative spark of David