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Manchester United through as runners-up after limp defeat to Valencia

Update: December, 13/2018 - 10:00
Phil Jones scored an embarassing own goal but Manchester United qualify for Champions League last 16. - AFP Photo
Viet Nam News

VALENCIA, Spain Manchester United squandered the chance to win their Champions League group on Wednesday after a lacklustre display got what it deserved in a 2-1 defeat to Valencia.

Already through to the last 16, Jose Mourinho made eight changes at the Mestalla, including a return for Paul Pogba, but United were largely outplayed by their Spanish opponents, who sit 15th in La Liga.

After the game, Mourinho seemed to aim a dig at those players to have come in. "Nothing surprised me at all," he said.

Carlos Soler’s driven shot and a Phil Jones own-goal put Valencia two up early in the second half before United came alive in the final minutes after Marcus Rashford’s header gave them brief hope.

Perhaps Mourinho and his players had assumed Juventus would win away at Young Boys but the Italians’ surprise 2-1 loss meant United had first place within their grasp.

Instead, they go through as runners-up into Monday’s draw for the last 16, with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund and Porto all potential opponents.

As group winners, they would have had Atletico Madrid, Roma, Schalke, Ajax or Lyon.

"Apart from a couple of clubs that are clearly much better than the others, I don’t think the draw will be significantly different," Mourinho said.

"There are teams that finish second that the ones that finish first will not be happy to play against."

Porto would probably be the favoured pick but on this evidence, they might feel the same about United. After all, Valencia also made changes, eight of them, with their fate resigned to dropping into the Europa League.

Valencia had failed to score in six of their previous eight Champions League games while poor form in La Liga has their coach Marcelino fighting for his future.

After drawing against Sevilla last weekend, their fans swung white handkerchiefs in the air to demonstrate their dissatisfaction.

"We needed this winning feeling back in our game," said Marcelino afterwards.

Pogba, left out against Arsenal and Fulham, started here but contributed little, save for a glaring miss in the first half. Eric Bailly also came in but his partnership with Jones was rocky all night. AFP

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