Eyebrows were raised in certain quarters last week when Sir Alex Ferguson missed Manchester United’s Carling Cup tie against Scunthorpe so he could watch tonight’s Champions League opponents Valencia.

It was the first time Sir Alex missed a game for football reasons in 24 years in charge of the world’s biggest club and No.2 Mike Phelan was forced to leap to his boss’s defence declaring. “Why should there be an accusation that it is disrespectful?” said United’s assistant boss.

But as ususal the most successful manager in British football got it right as Javier Hernandez struck minutes after coming on as a late sub to claim a priceless 1-0 triumph. It was United’s first win in Spain for over eight years – and only their second in 19 attempts.
Fergie’s most famous double substitution will always be the one that clinched the 1999 Champions League and the Treble. Back then it was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham who scored the goals to secure the greatest night in United’s history with victory over Bayern Munich in the Nou Camp.

But last night, back in Spain, the Manchester United boss made two more inspired changea as supersubs  Hernandez and Federico Macheda combined late on to clinch a vital win. Hernandez, unknown outside his native Mexico until Fergie swooped to sign him for £7million from Chivas Guadalajara in the summer, applied an assured finish in the 85th minute after Macheda, with his first touch, squared for him to score.

“I think the second half we improved, had more penetration about us, but when you come here you have to make sure you’re solid at the back,” Ferguson told ITV SPORT. “I don’t think they made any really great chances, but they’re always a threat because they play good football. I think what Chico did was he brought in penetration.

“There was a moment before he scored his goal where made a great run in behind them, and that’s what we needed at that stage of the game.The changes suited us in terms of giving us energy and speed. It’s a great result for us. It’s not easy coming here. We’re pleased to win.”

Champions League
29 September 2010