United focused despite Roo absence

It could be argued Rooney’s struggle for form has been a

contributing factor to a stop-start opening that has seen United

register four draws from seven matches in all competitions. Yet

that only tells part of the story, which is why Rooney’s absence

from the team flight to Spain through an ankle injury should have

minimal effect. Of far more importance is defensive solidity, which

has been strangely absent for United so far but which they will

undoubtedly require on Wednesday 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 Darren 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.” United, and in

particular Rooney, cannot say the same. Dimitar Berbatov has been

the Red Devils’ stand-out offensive player so far this season and

Michael Owen has scored three times in a week, so there was an

argument that Rooney did not deserve to be selected this week

anyway. His ankle niggle has provided a reason for Ferguson to

leave him at home, which will allow the 24-year-old a chance to get

his mind right following damaging allegations about his private

life. United are yet to offer any firm indication of how long

Rooney will be absent for, with his next two opportunities to

return coming against Sunderland in the Premier League on Saturday

and for England in their Euro 2012 qualifier with Montenegro on

October 12. However, at least by confirming his absence at this

early stage, matchday should be relatively free of diversions. None

of this should deviate Rooney’s team-mates – also shorn of the

injured Antonio Valencia and Ryan Giggs – from their task of

avoiding defeat in one of Europe’s most impressive stadiums, the

Mestalla. “We have picked up experience of playing in Europe and we

have confidence,” said Fletcher. “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.”