On the previous two occasions Sir Alex Ferguson took Manchester United to Valencia the Reds were facing a team who would go on to the Champions League final. In March 2000, United drew 0-0 in the Estadio Mestalla in a second group stage and Hector Cuper's side went on to play Real Madrid in France in the final but lost 3-0. The following February United were back in the city and again drew 0-0. Cuper's team lost on penalties in the final to Bayern Munich in Milan. They were the glory years, but United return to face the Spaniards on Wednesday night with the club in potential financial meltdown and having to sell their biggest assets to survive. Fergie watched Valencia's only draw in La Liga last week when they dropped two points against Atletico Madrid. But they are now the early Spanish title pacesetters seemingly against all the odds. Here MEN Sport assesses the Reds' Group C opponents. FORM Five matches into the La Liga season and Valencia are looking down on the big two Barcelona and Real Madrid. They have taken advantage of a starting programme that has produced four wins and just the one draw, at home to Atletico Madrid. The latest victory was a 2-0 success away to Sporting Gijon last Saturday. STAR MAN Ever Banega is Valencia's midfield inspiration. The Argentine was bought for £15m from Boca Juniors in 2008, but such was his poor form he was loaned out to Atletico Madrid and would have joined Everton but for a visa problem. However, last season the 22-year-old finally hit top form and was rated one of the best engine-room players in Spain.
OFF-FIELD The Spanish club are in financial crisis with debts of over 500m euros. Construction on the new stadium, Nou Mestalla, has been abandoned so they are left with a half-built ground on their hands. In the summer they were forced to sell £80m of their best playing assets when David Villa moved to Barcelona, City bought David Silva and experienced defender Carlos Marcheda who moved to Villarreal three Spanish internationals leaving in one fell swoop. TACTICS Valencia have adopted the typically Spanish approach of 4-2-3-1. It is effectively a five-man midfield based around Ever Banega. Mata and Joaquin provide an excellent crossing service and the team have pace to ensure they are one of the best counter attacking teams in La Liga.
MANAGER Unai Emery is a 38-year-old Spaniard who had an indistinguished player career but after retiring six years ago has made an impressive climb as a manager. He has guided Valencia back to the Champions League, is rated as one of the top young coaches in Europe, and such is his impact he is being touted as a replacement for World Cup winning coach Vincente Del Bosque when he steps down as national boss following 2012. Where do you think the game will be won and lost? Have your say.