Valencia 2-1 Manchester United: Mourinho's toothless Reds beaten by La Liga strugglers
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Valencia 2-1 Manchester United: Mourinho's toothless Reds beaten by La Liga strugglers

harry-robinson
Harry Robinson

Jose Mourinho started a team filled to the brim with players who lacked confidence. A humiliating and pathetic 2-1 defeat to Valencia, the side currently sitting 15th in La Liga, will not have helped a single one.

As Juventus lost to Young Boys, it was also a missed opportunity for Manchester United to top Group H.

Fred floundered. Paul Pogba poked a fantastic chance wide. Phil Jones made Sir Alex Ferguson's claim that he could become the club's greatest ever player look ever more ridiculous.

In attack, Romelu Lukaku didn't hold up the ball once. It wasn't until Marcus Rashford arrived just before the hour mark that any pace was added to Man United's game. He'd score to give in the 86th minute to give them a chance of recovery. 

Supporters watching on TV bemoaned the lack of pressure put on the Valencia defence by United. Supporters at the ground sang of "the greatest in English football" and how United have "won it all" to a Stone Roses tune. They show more creativity than the players representing their club at the moment.

This was a nothing game for United until Young Boys took the lead against Juventus. Mourinho's side had already qualified, but the possibility of finishing top of the group existed. It didn't seem feasible before the game kicked off, and as soon as it began, this United's side dearth of confidence and shots meant that even with Young Boys leading Juventus, any change to the order in Group H looked a ridiculous concept.

Story of the game

For Manchester United, it was a game in which the first half was so familiar. United were poor, uninventive, weak in defence and passive. They waited to see Valencia's game, encouraging them to find the space left so blatantly and capitalise on it.

While Los Che have been poor this season, with only three La Liga wins all season, even they couldn't fail to take the sword to Mourinho's United.

The Reds have done well to qualify from this Champions League group but the importance of that achievement has, temporarily at least, been overshadowed by another woeful showing.

Within six minutes of the start, United's tempo had already declined from what it was at kick-off. Their structure before the game had been a matter of debate. Long after the referee had blown his whistle to start the game, it was still a debate over quite whether the players knew where they were playing.

Carlos Soler gave Valencia the lead with a powerful but beautifully guided strike after latching onto a loose header from Phil Jones. The space in which Valencia were allowed to play in the build-up to goal wasn't a lax moment from United, it was simply the norm. It happened all game.

Mourinho's starting team had a centre-back playing on the left flank in Marcos Rojo. Ahead of the Argentine was creative central midfielder Andreas Pereira. On the right side of the pitch, ageing failed winger Antonio Valencia was in defence while another creative central player in Juan Mata played ahead of him. Thus, it was no surprise that there was no pace to United's game whatsoever.

They threatened at no point in the first half, except when an onside-Pogba missed from close range only to be called offside.

Valencia had some minor chances before the break, but after coming out of the dressing rooms to find Ashley Young arriving onto the pitch for United, they may have thought their task might get slightly harder.

Phil Jones had other ideas, though, as he stuck the ball into his own net in a typical lack of composure. With Batshuayi running onto a through ball, Jones saved the Belgian striker from having to do any of the work and passed it through his own goalkeeper Sergio Romero to double Valencia's lead.

It was the first time a United player had had a shot on target in the game. It was at the wrong end, of course.

United's response was meek. Rashford and Lingard arrived onto the pitch. That changed little. In defence, Valencia, Jones and Bailly remained committed to giving the ball immediately back to their opponents after winning it back.

Pogba could do little in midfield with the lack of movement around him, although this is the kind of game where the Frenchman is expected to change things.

Andreas Pereira had a good swerving effort tipped over for a corner with a quarter-of-an-hour left but it was simply a display of the lack of ingenuity from United. He had no one to pass to, nothing to try except shooting after taking three or four touches to prepare himself.

Pogba, too, had similar efforts, both of them impressive solo attempts with the dearth of options around him. Both players will likely be dropped by Mourinho for Sunday's game at Anfield and blamed for the result. 

There was simply no public desire from United's players and coaches of a desperation to get back into the game. These were mainly players who needed to win over their manager to regain a starting spot. They didn't look like they cared about doing that. 

When Rashford headed home in the 86th minute for what proved a consolation goal, things sped up a bit. Quite why it took a goal to do so is a mystery. 

It was Mourinho's three subs, to give the Portuguese some credit, that made the goal. It was a demonstration of exactly how United can play - beautifully - but rarely do. Some wonderful one-touch play left Lingard stretching to keep the ball in play before touching it back to Ashley Young who crossed for Rashford. The Englishman headed in for his second goal of the week.

Pogba provided some magic with a chipped pass to Juan Mata but the little Spaniard couldn't recreate his magic at Anfield a few years ago and score while on the turn. The ball crept wide. 

It all changed after the goal and the positives of Lingard and Rashford's movement nearly bore fruit again. But this has been a theme of United far too often under Mourinho. His United side have a tendency to fail to play for 85 minutes before snatching a draw or a win. It doesn't work every time, though, just like at the Mestalla on Wednesday when they fell short.

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