Manchester United ended a bright pre-season campaign on a high when Marouane Fellaini grabbed an injury-time winner against Valencia.
Darren Fletcher’s deflected strike was cancelled out by Rodrigo Moreno’s sharp finish but Belgian midfielder Fellaini’s late effort provided Louis van Gaal with a victory in his first game in charge at Old Trafford.
After a slightly subdued opening spell, Moreno released Sofiane Feghouli and Chris Smalling was required to make an important interception in the middle. Feghouli also produced a tame effort that David De Gea saved with ease while Diego Alves was equally as untroubled when Phil Jones got his head to a corner by Juan Mata that came off Rooney.
Rooney floated a free-kick over the bar and then spurned a golden chance to break the deadlock in the 33rd minute. Ander Herrera drilled the pass of the half to Ashley Young, who produced a first-time cross on the run towards Rooney. The captain was nudged by Antonio Barragan and a generous penalty was awarded by referee Jon Moss.
Rooney stepped up but struck Alves’ right-hand post with the keeper guessing correctly with his dive. There was another opening for the England international before the interval but he was unable to gather a long ball through by Fletcher.
It was Fletcher who struck, four minutes into the second half, to cheer the Stretford End behind the goal. Young’s corner was dummied by Herrera at the near post and the ball broke to the Scotland skipper on the edge of the area. A deflected shot, through a crowd of players, beat the grounded Alves for the opener.
Rooney was sent clear by Young but was unable to pick out a colleague and Valencia grew in stature as the half wore on, with substitute Rodrigo De Paul displaying nice skill but firing well wide. Van Gaal made four changes just past the hour mark and the new-look team struggled to contain the Spaniards.
Moreno was thwarted by a superb recovery tackle from Jones before heading goalwards from a corner, only for Javier Hernandez to nod away to safety. Although Reece James offered a weak retaliatory shot at the other end, the equaliser arrived with 19 minutes remaining.
Pablo Piatti’s free-kick was miscued by Tom Cleverley and Moreno pounced with an emphatic finish into the roof of the net with the offside flag staying down. Piatti was then unlucky not to add another goal seconds later when sliding into the six-yard box.
Galvanised by the introduction of Belgian duo Fellaini and Adnan Januzaj, United came back into the game with Rooney blasting narrowly over the bar from Januzaj’s clever pass. A Dani Parejo drive squirmed out of De Gea’s grasp but he recovered to get a second touch to it and the save sparked a spell of sustained pressure by the Reds.
It paid off in dramatic circumstances when Tyler Blackett scooped a hopeful high ball towards Fellaini and, when Alves collided with a defender, the substitute was on hand to tap into an empty net. The win sets the Reds up nicely for Saturday’s Barclays Premier League opener with Swansea City.
Bring on Swansea!