Louis van Gaal will make his Old Trafford tonight as his Manchester United squad take on Valencia in the final game of an overly successful pre-season.
United come into the game fresh from victory over Liverpool in the International Champions Cup last week (a fifth win from five games so far) and this will be a final test of fitness and performance ahead of the first game of the Premier League season opener against Swansea this weekend.
Van Gaal, who turned 63 this week, will be acutely aware of his predecessors struggles at home. Old Trafford was anything but the Theatre of Dreams last campaign with 7 league losses contributing hugely to an extremely underwhelming season, and Van Gaal will be seeking a win at the first attempt on home soil.
Manchester United team news
The Reds have already seen off the likes of Inter Milan, Roma and Real Madrid so far with a 3-4-1-2 formation that allows a number of players to flourish, none more so than club record signing Juan Mata, while Wayne Rooney has also been sharp.
Tyler Blackett might be rewarded for several mature showings with a start while James Wilson, who scored four against Man City for the reserves recently, could also get some minutes under his belt for the first team. Rafael and Robin van Persie are unlikely to feature while Adnan Januzaj and Marouane Fellaini aren’t fit either.
Valencia team news
Valencia have had a mixed pre-season under Nuno Santo but appear to be finding form of late, recording a draw against Monaco and more recently a creditable victory over Benfica in the last fortnight.
Los Che have strengthened with the highly-rated forward Rodrigo and Nicholas Otamendi joining from Benfica and Porto respectively. Both could prove to be astute signings. Full-back Juan Bernat and centre back Jeremy Mathieu have left the Mestalla over the summer, joining Bayern Munich and Barcelona.
The two sides last met in the 2010/11 Champions League group stage. United were victorious away from home as they progressed to the last 16 as group winners. A hard-fought victory at the Mestalla courtesy of a Chicharito strike was critical in progressing.
While United have often struggled on Valencia’s home turf, the Reds have impressed against the Spanish outfit at home. The Reds saw off a Valencia team featuring Juan Mata 2-0 in a 2009 pre-season friendly, although the most recent home win saw both take a point apiece.
Juan Mata has looked superb so far, deployed in his favoured ‘number 10’ position behind two strikers. The diminutive Spaniard was in excellent form against Liverpool last time out, and is expected to play a significant part as his former club come to town.
Paco Alcacer is a striker who is highly thought of on Spanish shores. The youngster was in fine form during Valencia’s extended Europa League run. If he can form a partnership with Rodrigo, Nuno Santo’s men could enjoy a good year.
Although Valencia are a decent outfit, and should pose a suitable challenge to the Reds, United under van Gaal have seen off stronger opposition, and with confidence high, could continue their impressive run as the curtain comes down on pre-season.
United 3-0 Valencia