Sir Alex Ferguson expects Antonio Valencia to emerge as a regular goalscorer at Manchester United after the £17 million Ecuadorean marked his debut with an impressive solo goal against Boca Juniors in Munich.
Anderson’s first goal in a United shirt, a free kick from the edge of the penalty area, and Valencia’s long-range strike maintained the club’s 100 per cent pre-season record and secured a place in Thursday’s Audi Cup final against Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena.
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With Cristiano Ronaldo’s £80 million sale to Real Madrid leaving United needing to replace the 68 goals scored by the Portuguese over the past two seasons, the pressure is likely to be on Valencia and his fellow midfielders to produce.
But despite a record of just seven goals in 89 appearances for Wigan prior to his summer transfer to United, Ferguson believes that Valencia has the potential to develop into a genuine goal threat at Old Trafford. “This was Valencia’s first game for us and we are very satisfied,” said Ferguson. He is a good athlete, has power and running ability.
“His record at Wigan was not a good one in terms of goals, but maybe the way we play will give him more opportunities and he will get more goals.
“He created a good goal for himself in this game. He opened the space up for himself well, so we are pleased and he will play in a lot of games this season.”
In contrast to Valencia’s debut goal, Anderson’s free kick marked his first goal for the club. In two seasons with United, the Brazilian has failed to find the net in 75 competitive appearances.
The 21 year-old has been challenged to improve on his scoring, however, and Ferguson is hopeful that his goal against Boca could act as a watershed. “I hope this sparks Anderson off and gives him the incentive to be more positive with his shooting. Over the two years he has been with us he has had many close opportunities, hit the post and had saves.
“But hopefully his luck will change and he will go on and score more for us.”
Anderson ended his barren run, albeit in a friendly, with a curling left-foot free kick on 23 minutes against the Argentine champions.
Had Ronaldo still been a United player, it is unlikely that Anderson would have been allowed anywhere near the set-piece, yet he sent the ball past the statue-like goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri.
Valencia’s goal was also straight from the Ronaldo textbook. Having received the ball from Wayne Rooney
40 yards from goal, the 23 year-old raced past two Boca defenders before aiming a right-foot effort goalwards from the edge of the penalty area.
Abbondanzieri should have saved comfortably, but the ball squirmed under the Argentina No 1’s body, enabling Valencia to claim his goal. Boca provided the toughest test for United without Ronaldo, however, and the Premier League champions were impressive enough before the effects of Monday’s overnight flight from China began to take its toll in the second-half.
Federico Insua’s 55th-minute volley reduced the arrears for Boca and Martin Palermo almost equalised 15 minutes later with a header that struck the crossbar.
United held on, though, to claim a place in the final, a game that is likely to come too quickly for Wes Brown, who was replaced by Rio Ferdinand in the first-half after appearing to sustain a thigh injury.
Ferguson said: “Wes had a little pull on his thigh and it was wise just to take him off.
“I’m satisfied with the win, though. That is always the main aim, but I don’t think we have played particularly well.
“Boca were the better team in the second half and probably deserved something out of the game.”
Boca Juniors (4-1-3-2): Abbondanzieri; Soto, Lopez, Forlin, Rodriguez;Diaz (Chavez h-t), Battaglia, Insua; Riquelme; Palermo (Viatri 82), Noir (Mouche h-t).
Subs: Garcia (g), Gaitan, Marino, Gunino, Krupoviesa, Philippe, Monzon.
Manchester United (4-4-2): Kuszczak; O'Shea, Cathcart, Brown (Ferdinand 37), Fabio (Evra 77); Valencia (Nani 68), Carrick (Scholes 77), Anderson (Fletcher 77), Park (Giggs 68); Rooney, Macheda (Berbatov 68).
Subs: Foster (g), Vidic, Evans, Gibson, Tosic.
Referee: W. Stark (Germany)