Manchester United and Valencia played out an uneventful 0-0 draw at Old Trafford in the second match of the Champions League group stage. Both teams were guileless in attack, but just good enough in defense to maintain clean sheets.
The start of this match was utterly fitting for this current iteration of Manchester United. Kick-off was delayed for several minutes because the home team’s coach was late getting to the ground. Much like the driver, this team can’t even park the bus right.
United started with more attacking intent than they did at the weekend against West Ham, which is admittedly not saying much. There was not much improvement on the other end, however, with United looking as open as ever at the back. The visiting side were having particular success targeting Antonio Valencia’s flank, having quickly sussed out that the reinstated Alexis Sánchez wasn’t much interested in tracking back to help. Throughout the first half, Valencia (the team) took advantage of Valencia (the player) being either outnumbered or out of position.
Fortunately for the hosts, Valencia were demonstrating why they are currently the lowest scoring team in La Liga. Despite getting into threatening positions seemingly at will, Los Che were unable to convert any of those moves into clear cut chances, never mind goals. In that sense, they had much in common with United. The Reds may have been showing more spirit than in recent matches, but no more competence. Time and again, United’s forays forward ended with a misplaced pass, a poor touch, or an ill-advised attempt.
At half time, all that was on display was two teams trying to attack, but both being pretty crap at it.
Valencia came out much improved in the second half (the team, that is; the player was still having a nightmare), and United found themselves on the back foot in the period following the break. With barely five minutes gone, the first protests of “Attack, attack, attack!” went up in the stands. The Old Trafford was on the brink of going from frustrated to openly mutinous.
It took an hour for United to mount a brief attacking charge, kicked off by direct free kick from Paul Pogba that Neto had to put behind for a corner. A flurry of half-chances followed, with Valencia having trouble clearing their lines. As in the first half though, nothing came of it.
Mourinho made his first change in the 75th minute. The ineffective Alexis Sánchez (reportedly dressed down in training by his manager) went off, and Anthony Martial (publicly criticized by his manager) came on. Sánchez was arguably, and not for the first time, the worst United player on the pitch. But to be fair to him, the whole team plays as if they have never trained together in their lives.
Valencia were far from sturdy at the back, and continued to invite United to attack. The Reds stubbornly refused to be anything but useless though, with Pogba and the overlapping Luke Shaw the only starters threatening to create anything of note. Romelu Lukaku in particular looked woefully out of form.
Marcus Rashford toiled manfully from both wide attacking positions, and came the closest to putting United ahead. After Martial’s direct running had won the team a free kick just outside the penalty area, Rashford struck an effort at goal from an improbable angle that skimmed off the crossbar.
That was the last effort of any note, and a dull match ended in dull fashion. At full time, the home crowd left the team and manager in no doubt about their displeasure.