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.
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