Manchester United v Valencia, pre-season friendly, August 5, 2009
If the Sunday tabloids were to be believed the sole purpose of this fixture was for Sir Alex Ferguson to politely enquire how much the Spanish side would be willing to sell David Silva and/or David Villa, depending which rag you trust.
In truth, this match is a landmark game for a number of reasons for fans of the Red Devils. With Tevez and Ronaldo long gone, Michael Owen looks likely to make his non-competitive home debut as United’s new number seven. Regulars at Old Trafford will also be eager to see how Luis Antonio Velencia gets on, as well as taking note on which pairing will start up-front.
Intriguingly, after all the hype following his surprise move, Michael Owen has not yet played in tandem with Wayne Rooney throughout the pre-season. The former Liverpool striker has scored four goals in five pre-season appearances and now there is talk of a recall to the England squad.
Fabio Capello, who is expected to either be in attendance on Wednesday night in person or alternatively been represented by an assistant, is reportedly interested in the apparent revival of Michael Owen and could call him up to the England squad for the match against Holland later this month.
Alongside Owen, the major change to the Premier League champions this summer is likely to be a more rigid tactical approach that has been alluded to by Sir Alex Ferguson. Much will depend on the form of Dimitar Berbatov, who Fergie has admitted had a "strange" season in 2008-09.
Valencia travel to Old Trafford with a 100% pre-season record so far. The Spanish side saw off Werder Bremen on penalties in their opening game last week after a 2-2 draw and then beat Cardiff City 2-0 on Saturday.
Los Che’s summer transfer plans have been dictated by the futures of Davids Silva and Villa. Barcelona’s bid to secure Villa was blocked and the Catalan giants turned to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Silva was thought to be close to a move to Real Madrid but now either players most likely destination will surely be Old Trafford or Anfield.
On the incomings, Valencia’s major signing so far this summer has been French left back Jeremy Mathieu, who, if he plays, should provide stiff opposition to United's likely right winger Luis Antonio Valencia.
As we have seen in many of these pre-season games, fitness is all important and United have the clear edge for this one. Sunday’s Community Shield may take up greater importance but the United players will be keen to impress on their first outing at Old Trafford this season.
101gg predicts: Manchester United 3 - Valencia 1 (11/1)
Full match odds here.
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