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Rooney out of Valencia clash

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Manchester United headed to Valencia without Wayne Rooney but Darren Fletcher says the team is confident of kick-starting their soccer season.

United’s Champions League campaign began with a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Rangers two weeks ago and they take on Valencia at the Mestalla tonight without their erstwhile talismanic striker Rooney due to an ankle injury.

Rooney has been far from his best and his form has been one factor in a stop-start opening to the new season that has seen United register four draws from seven matches in all competitions.

But Dimitar Berbatov has emerged to take on Rooney’s goal-scoring responsibility, meaning United’s main focus will be on shoring up their unusually fragile defence.

They will undoubtedly need to improve at the back tonight if they are to avoid defeat against a side that has shrugged off the summer departures of David Villa and David Silva to become the surprise early-season pace-setters in the Primera Division.

“It is going to be a difficult match,’’ said midfielder Fletcher. “People might say it is not the same Valencia because they have lost Villa and Silva. But as we have seen at Manchester United, when you lose good players others step up to the mark and take on more responsibility. They have had a fantastic start.

“We have picked up experience of playing in Europe and we have confidence. We know how to cope with the travel and the different styles of play. Against Spanish sides, keeping the ball is key. If you give the ball away cheaply, you might not see it for a few minutes and they will punish you.”

Berbatov is again expected to lead the line in Rooney’s absence while Michael Owen’s three goals in the last two matches could earn him a place in Sir Alex Ferguson’s line-up should he go with two up front away from home.

Valencia should not get carried away with their strong start to the season and must be fully focused when they host Manchester United.

The financially-troubled Spanish club were forced to sell prize assets Villa and Silva in the close season and the consensus was that they would be unable to match their third-place finish in La Liga last term.

However, new strikers Roberto Soldado and Aritz Aduriz have settled well and pacy attacking midfielders Juan Mata and Pablo Hernandez have been in sparkling form to help Unai Emery’s side to the top of the domestic standings after five matches.

Valencia kicked off their Champions League campaign with an impressive Group C win over Bursaspor, thumping the Turkish champions 4-0 away as United stuttered to a 0-0 home draw with Scottish side Rangers. —Reuters

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