Hernandez wheels away triumphantly after his decisive late strike for United
By Jonathan Stevenson
Javier Hernandez stepped off the bench to get Manchester United's Champions League campaign up and running with a late victory away at Valencia.
Hernandez, who moments before struck the post, collected a pass from fellow substitute Federico Macheda and smashed a left-foot shot low into the corner.
Valencia had been the better side and Roberto Soldado headed over after Edwin van der Sar flapped at a cross.
Dimitar Berbatov forced Cesar Sanchez to save before Hernandez stole victory.
It was harsh on La Liga leaders Valencia but they were made to pay for not creating enough chances with the possession they had and being profligate with the ones they did manage to fashion.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, having set his team up to keep it tight at the back and contain the Spanish side, will be absolutely delighted with the result ahead of two more eminently winnable Group C games against unfancied Turkish team Bursaspor.
Ferguson salutes 'natural' Hernandez
After a 0-0 draw at home to Rangers two weeks ago, United needed to kick-start their European campaign and Ferguson flew out to Spain to watch Valencia last week, missing his team's
5-2 victory at Scunthorpe in the Carling Cup
in the process.
Shorn of the services of injured midfielders Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Antonio Valencia and star striker Wayne Rooney, the Scot was forced to adopt a defensive strategy.
Despite having only made one brief substitute appearance apiece in the Premier League this season, Anderson and Michael Carrick came into midfield, with Berbatov forced to plough a lone furrow up front.
And after a decent start from the hosts it was Berbatov who attempted to spark his team into life with a well-struck 30-yarder that flashed just past Cesar's left-hand post.
But neither side seemed in too much of a hurry to commit players forward as the game quickly became a battle for midfield supremacy, with lone strikers Berbatov and Soldado starved of possession for long periods.
Soldado did spurn the best chance of the first half when Alejandro Dominguez's cross from the left evaded Van der Sar's outstretched left hand but the forward could not react in time and headed up and on to the roof of the net.
The home side's best moments, though few and far between, were taking place down their right flank, with the pace of Miguel and Pablo Hernandez causing problems - on one occasion the latter cutting inside and drilling a fine shot just past Van der Sar's right-hand post.
Berbatov was feeding off scraps but he showed his class to control a long pass out from the United back, beat David Navarro for pace and force Cesar to save at his near post.
The longer the game went on the likelier it seemed Valencia would be the team, if any, to steal in for a win but the tiring Soldado shot wide and then headed off target before Manuel Fernandes forced Van der Sar to push his 30-yarder behind.
Just when the Spaniards appeared to be on top, United sent on Hernandez and then Macheda as they hit the hosts with a classic sucker punch.
Moments after Hernandez had met Nani's floated cross at the back post with a shot against the upright, a devastating counter attack handed United the three points.
Nani fed Macheda down the right and when his pass to the edge of the box found Hernandez, the Mexican's first touch took the ball out of his feet and his second lashed the ball into the corner past Cesar Sanchez from 16 yards.
Valencia were too shell-shocked to respond in the five minutes they had left, leaving United with a firm grasp on the destiny of Group C.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.