Jose Mourinho thought the result at the Mestalla on Wednesday night wouldn’t matter. It turned out the Manchester United manager was wrong.
Juventus’s surprise defeat to Young Boys in Switzerland meant that United’s failure to win here cost them first place in Group H – as much as it would have flattered them – and the chance of an easier draw in the last 16.
Instead, Mourinho made a raft of changes in the belief that the result would be irrelevant and saw United well beaten by a Valencia team who can count themselves unfortunate to be dropping into the Europa League.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
VALENCIA: (4-4-2) Domenech 6.5; Piccini 7.5, Vezo 7, Diakhaby 6, Lato 6.5(Garay 51, 6); Soler 8, Kondogbia 6.5, Parejo 7, Cheryshev 6.5 (Torres 66, 6), Mina 7 (Rodrigo 68, 6), Batshuayi 6.5
SUBS NOT USED: Neto, Coquelin, Wass, Lee
GOALS: Soler (17), Jones (OG 47)
BOOKINGS: Lato (28)
COACH: Marcelino Garcia Toral 7
MANCHESTER UNITED: (4-3-3) Romero 6; Valencia 5.5, Bailly 6, Jones 5, Rojo 5(Young 46, 6); Fred 5 (Rashford 57, 6), Fellaini 6, Pogba 5; Mata 7, Lukaku 5.5(Lingard 69, 6), Pereira 6
SUBS NOT USED: Grant (GK); Ander Herrera, Garner, Greenwood
GOALS: Rashford (86)
BOOKINGS: Valencia (11), Bailly (29), Rashford (82)
COACH: Jose Mourinho 5
REFEREE: Georgi Kabakov (Bulgaria) 7
MAN OF THE MATCH: Carlos Soler
That was decided before kick-off here. But Mourinho was still looking or a performance from some players and he didn’t get it.
Paul Pogba, benched for three of the last five games, started and did nothing to suggest that he should keep his place against Liverpool on Sunday.
Indeed, the erratic Frenchman was guilty of a horrible miss in the first half when he was wrongly flagged offside.
Phil Jones won’t remember this night too fondly either. His header led to Carlos Soler’s opeing goal in the first half, and Jones calamitously scored the second in his own net soon after half-time.
So United progress to the knockout stage of the Champions League, but no-one is pretending this has been an impressive European campaign.