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Misfit Fellaini earns Man Utd a win

FRIENDLY Man Utd 2-1 Valencia Fletcher 48, Fellaini 90 Moreno 70 Manchester United continued their unbeaten pre-season with a narrow 2-1 victory over Valencia courtesy of a late goal by substitute Marouane Fellaini.

As the teams emerged from the tunnel for this friendly, the Manchester United fans let out a tremendous roar as the team returned to the Theatre of Dreams for the first time since a successful pre-season in the USA.

But it was also the occasion for some other milestones as well. Louis van Gaal was making his debut at Old Trafford as boss of United and was taking charge for the first time on home soil since the Red Devils dispensed with the services of David Moyes after their worst ever Premier League finish in May.

Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra and Ryan Giggs, all stalwarts under the successful regime of Sir Alex Ferguson, had departed, although Giggs was in the dugout for the first time as assistant manager.

Dutchman van Gaal had guided Holland at the World Cup in Brazil to a third place finish at the expense of the hosts and since taking up his position at United had overseen the big-name signings of Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw, with more expected.

An unbeaten campaign in the USA saw van Gaal return with the Chevrolet Cup and International Champions Cup, hardly the Champions League, true, but at least grounds for optimism considering one of the victories was over bitter rivals Liverpool.

So perhaps it was not surprising the United faithful reacted as they did, it was a full throated roar of relief ahead of the start of the Premiership season this weekend.

Meanwhile their opponents Valencia also welcome a new face into their hot seat, Nuno Santo replacing old boss Antonio Pizzi in July after a disappointing eighth place finish in La Liga meaning no European football for the first time since 1997/98. All sounds remarkably familiar...

And the similarities don't end there for the Spaniards have also enjoyed a successful pre-season winning the Emirates Cup at Arsenal's stadium.

Perhaps it was asking too much for a feat of feast of football with the new season looming for both sets of players, so perhaps the low key first 45 minutes was to be expected.

United dominated but the pace was slow with no one wanting to risk injury and the first half was drifting until the 32nd minute when Wayne Rooney won a soft penalty, flailing his arms in the air with the merest of contact from Antonio Barragan.

But from Valencia's point of view justice was done when Rooney hit the spot kick firmly enough, but against the foot of the post with keeper Diego Alves getting the slightest of fingertip touches.

The visitor's seemed content to soak up the leisurely build-ups of United whilst threatening on the break just occasionally.

Within 3 minutes of the restart the host's took the lead. Valencia only half cleared a corner and Darren Fletcher from 18yards, with the aid of a deflection, found the back of the net.

The tempo increased marginally with United looking to add to their lead and the Spaniard's showing more attacking intent.

Van Gaal then made a raft of substitutions, Tom Cleverley came on for Fletcher, Shinji Kagawa replacedAshley Young, Jesse Lingard for Juan Mata and Michael Keane took Chris Smalling's place.

But it was Valencia who levelled on 70m as Cleverley sliced a clearance towards the back post and Rodrigo Moreno clinically finished.

For the next few minutes Valencia pressed and the home side were fortunate not concede.

Fellaini and Adnan Januzaj were quickly introduced for some game time, with the former given ironic cheers every time he touched the ball.

But the ultimate irony came in the last minute after both teams had opportunities to clinch a win. The ball was crossed from deep, more in hope than expectation, but the Valencia keeper came, failed to claim the ball allowing Fellaini to instantly control and roll the ball into an empty net.

The roar from the Old Trafford crowd towards the goalscorer was tremendous as the Belgian has rarely looked comfortable since his signing from Everton and his future with the club is still not secure.

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Ian Ferris
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Ian Ferris

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