Manchester United vs. Valencia: Winners and Losers from Pre-Season Friendly
Louis van Gaal was not overly impressed with his team's performance during Manchester United's 2-1 victory over Valencia at Old Trafford. In the Dutchman's home debut, his team's victory was more laboured than their results on tour.
Van Gaal, speaking to MUTV (h/t ManUtd.com) after the game, said, "I think it was our worst match today." He added that he felt "it was a lot of wrong choices, wrong passes, and we didn't press so good."
He did say he believed Marouane Fellaini's last-minute winner was "a good signal."
So who were the winners and losers in the final pre-season friendly? It is important not to read too much into these, as the real stuff starts on Saturday. However, there may be hints for the season ahead, and if not, there is at least a chance to celebrate a much-maligned Belgian...
Winner: Marouane Fellaini
Arriving as a late substitute alongside Belgium team-mate Adnan Januzaj, Marouane Fellaini made an immediate difference. He added energy to United's midfield and helped the Red Devils wrest control of the game back from Valencia.
The Spanish side had equalised and enjoyed their only period of dominance shortly before Fellaini's arrival.
Unfortunately, the Old Trafford crowd was not impressed. Ironic cheers greeted Fellaini's every touch, no help to a player who has appeared short on confidence.
In a delightful moment, Fellaini scored United's winner, a fine retort to those who had singled him out for hostile treatment.
Whether this has any bearing on Fellaini's future at United remains to be seen, but for tonight, Marouane Fellaini was most certainly a winner.
Winner: Phil Jones
Phil Jones was awarded Man of the Match honors by MUTV co-commentator Paddy Crerand. It was a well-deserved award, as Jones indeed had a fine game. Playing on the right of the back-three, Jones spent much of the game very wide on the right, his assigned position when United had possession.
He used the ball well, contributing to the neater aspects of United's passing. Defensively, he has adapted well to Van Gaal's new system and provided a good deal of energy. He also appeared to keep his composure, which will be extremely important as the season progresses.
Jones could be one of the players who benefits most from Van Gaal's change in approach, given that it should guarantee him plenty of games at centre-back. He could yet fulfil his significant promise and learn to play the role at the very highest level.
Winner: Tyler Blackett
Playing on the left of the back-three, Tyler Blackett, like Jones, was expected to contribute to United's attacking play. He did so throughout the game, capping off his fine performance with the assist for Fellaini's winner.
The goal came from a long pass that may have been more “get it in the mixer” than pinpoint cross, but it was certainly effective.
Like Jones, Blackett did not let the side down defensively because of his attacking duties. At no point did he look overwhelmed by the occasion, and it seems likely that he will see first-team action in competitive games this season.
Loser: Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney had a bad day at the office. He missed a penalty and was not able to maintain the excellent form he had shown on tour.
His first touch was heavy on occasions, and he made a few poor choices when picking a pass.
This was the first game of pre-season in which Rooney dipped below very fine form. Hopefully, it will be a temporary state of affairs and he will return to goalscoring form against Swansea City on Saturday.