difficult trips to rangers fc and bursaspor await, but edwin van der sar told uefa.com that wednesday's visit to valencia cf will be manchester united fc's toughest group c challenge
having made a superb start to the season, valencia cf present a tricky test to a manchester united fc side who have yet to hit top gear at mestalla.
shorn of david silva's artistry and david villa's goals over the summer, a valencia side which finished third in spain in 2009/10 have dusted themselves down in impressive fashion. thirteen points from their opening five league games have put them top domestically, and they also lead group c after a 4-0 matchday 1 win away to bursaspor.
united, premier league runners-up to chelsea fc last term, trail the blues by three points and are two adrift of valencia ahead of a daunting visit to mestalla, where unai emery's charges have not lost in 11 european fixtures.
"it's going to be a difficult away game, of course," united goalkeeper edwin van der sar told uefa.com. "valencia are top of the league at the moment, they are really playing well. they lost two good players in the summer and their replacements are doing very well. we are a little bit disappointed with results so we have to make up for it."
sir alex ferguson made ten changes for the visit of rangers fc two weeks ago and saw his team frustrated by a disciplined defensive display from the scottish champions. walter smith's side returned to glasgow with a point from a goalless draw, but does van der sar think united, renowned for their enterprising approach both home and away, would entertain the idea of similarly stifling their spanish hosts?
"you're not going to go for a draw," added the former netherlands no1, "but we're playing away against one of the strong teams in the group. you've got four teams who are all difficult and it can be hostile in turkey and in scotland. i think quality-wise, valencia are probably one of the strong teams in the group.
"if you're at a certain point in the game and you're playing well, you're winning, and you concede late on, then you're not going to be happy [with a draw]. if they play you off the park and they peg you in your own penalty area, of course you'll be delighted with a draw. but if we create the most chances and maybe we hit the post, we hit the bar, their goalkeeper plays a blinder, then you're going to be disappointed."
in a 13-minute cameo, substitute javier hernández hit the post and then scored the only goal as the visitors won.
javier hernández scored with five minutes remaining as manchester united fc – no strangers to winning against the odds in spain – beat valencia cf despite being second best for much of the group c fixture.
eleven years ago two substitutes, teddy sheringham and ole gunnar solskjær, famously earned sir alex ferguson's team a dramatic victory over fc bayern münchen in the uefa champions league final in barcelona. the prize was not as significant this evening but there was a whiff of nostalgia as, with valencia looking ever more threatening, javier hernández took a clever assist from fellow replacement federico macheda and fired in.
on the 28th anniversary of valencia's only victory over united it was a bitter blow to the liga leaders, but a lesson in clinical, clever counterattacking. indeed, for a long time it seemed that sir alex's team would be happy to nullify their opponents and take home a point – a win was a distant bonus. it would take a moment of clarity, when all the previous endeavour suddenly found an end result, to change that.
valencia began brightly, and on the right pablo hernández weaved his particular magic. more than once he bamboozled patrice evra but having created the opening he squandered it – it was a common malady. the first real threat came from the hosts' opposite flank, edwin van der sar doing just enough after flapping at alejandro domínguez's cross to spoil roberto soldado's header, the effort looping over the open goal.
united immediately responded as anderson, making his second start since february, volleyed nani's centre millimetres wide. the early chances proved a preamble while the sides jostled for superiority. it was not until moments after the break that pablo again took the reins, hitting a fierce drive beyond van der sar's dive and the far post.
again the visitors responded in kind, nani's inventive long pass sending dimitar berbatov one-on-one with césar sánchez but the keeper parried expertly. yet with the points there for the taking and united featuring three players returning from fitness, the game opened up.
aritz aduriz, on for domínguez, added power and intensity as valencia peppered united's goal. indeed, it took a superb rio ferdinand block to stop soldado grabbing the lead. soon after sir alex made just as telling intervention: sending on javier hernández. the mexican international promptly hit the upright – though the flag was up for offside anyway – but he would not be denied.
yardımcı hakemler: gabor erös (hun), tibor vámos (hun)
4. hakem: ferenc bede (hun)
çizgi hakemleri: mihaly fabian (hun), tamás bognar (hun)
valencia: césar sánchez (gk), hedwiges maduro, david navarro (c), david albelda (dk. 86 mehmet topal), alejandro domínguez (dk. 59 aritz aduriz), roberto soldado, juan mata, pablo hernández, jérémy mathieu, miguel, tino costa (dk. 75 manuel fernandes)
yedekler: miguel ángel moyà (gk), bruno saltor, sofiane feghouli, ricardo costa
teknik direktör: unai emery (esp)
man. united: edwin van der sar (gk), patrice evra, rio ferdinand, anderson (dk. 77 javier hernández), dimitar berbatov (dk. 85 federico macheda), park ji-sung, nemanja vidić (c), michael carrick, nani, rafael (dk. 90+2 john o'shea), darren fletcher
yedekler: tomasz kuszczak (gk), michael owen, chris smalling, darron gibson