Valencia makes scoring start to daunting task

Boca Juniors 1 Manchester United 2
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The Independent Football

However unfair the tag, Antonio Valencia will go down as the man who replaced Cristiano Ronaldo. Just as it was absurd to suggest that when Manchester United signed Ian Storey-Moore in 1972 they were "replacing" George Best, filling Ronaldo's lime-green boots is not the Ecuadorean's job description.

However, it was vital he began well and scoring the decisive goal on his debut to overcome the champions of Argentina and take United through to tonight's final of the Audi Cup, where they will meet Bayern Munich, counts as a fine beginning. Sir Alex Ferguson's chief concern about allowing Ronaldo's move to Madrid was how to replace his goals. At first glance, Valencia was hardly a like-for-like replacement. Last season, Ronaldo scored 26 times. Valencia's found the net three times for Wigan.

"He knows himself that his goalscoring record at Wigan was poor," Ferguson said. "But we are going to look at the reasons why that is and work on it. And he knows, too, that performing alongside the players we have here will give him more opportunity."

Ferguson's other dilemma is who will take the set pieces that Ronaldo used to monopolise. Anderson, like Valencia, would not seem an obvious choice, chiefly because in 75 competitive games for Manchester United, he had yet to find the net – something that made the Brazilian the centre of plenty of dressing-room banter.

So when Anderson's free-kick crashed into the top corner in the 23rd minute, the entire United bench came to the touchline to applaud.

However, in front of a crowd of 61,000 Boca Juniors showed considerable fight. Ten minutes after the interval, Federico Insua volleyed a deep cross past Tomasz Kuszczak.

Boca immediately stepped up their game and might have equalised through another penetrating cross from the right. This time it was met not by an Argentinian boot but the head of Craig Cathcart. The 20-year-old, who had not yet played a match for United, headed it on to his own crossbar. Like Valencia, he will have had a debut to remember but not for the right reasons.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Kuszczak; O'Shea, Cathcart, Brown (Ferdinand, 37), F Da Silva (Evra, 77); Valencia (Nani, 67), Carrick (Scholes, 77), Anderson (Fletcher, 77), Park (Giggs, 67); Macheda (Berbatov. 67), Rooney.

* Celtic lost 1-0 to Dynamo Moscow in the first leg of the Champions League third qualifying round at Parkhead last night. Alexander Kokorin's early strike gave the Russians the advantage ahead of next week's return game in Moscow.