Neville downplays possible United tie

Valencia's Paco Alcacer (far left) and Alvaro Negredo looking crestfallen after losing to Lyon in their Champions League Group H encounter at the Mestalla Stadium.
Valencia's Paco Alcacer (far left) and Alvaro Negredo looking crestfallen after losing to Lyon in their Champions League Group H encounter at the Mestalla Stadium.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

VALENCIA • Gary Neville is putting thoughts of an early return to Old Trafford to the back of his mind after kicking off his career as Valencia manager with a defeat in the Champions League.

A 0-2 loss to Lyon, coupled with Gent's 2-1 victory over Zenit St Petersburg on Wednesday, means Valencia joined Manchester United in the Europa League.

Neville, though, was not dwelling on the possibility of meeting his former team, choosing to focus on Sunday's La Liga clash with Eibar, the 40-year-old's first time in charge in a Spanish league fixture.

"We will take the competition seriously, number one," said Neville of the Europa League, which has been won in four of the last six seasons by a Spanish club.

"Who we draw and whether we play Manchester United is the last thing on my mind at this moment in time, I'm thinking about Sunday's game in the league, I'm thinking about recuperation, recovery and making sure the players are well prepared for Sunday."

Defender Shkodran Mustafi was desperately unlucky not to get Neville off to a flying start inside 10 minutes as he thundered a header off the post. He was then penalised for a foul when he did find the net from Valencia's next corner.

Ultimately, however, Lyon's pace tore the hosts apart on the counter-attack.

Maxwell Cornet put Lyon in front eight minutes before the break and Alexandre Lacazette sealed their first European win of the season in the 76th minute with a solo breakaway effort.

Said Lyon manager Hubert Fournier: "Tonight, we saw the energy needed from the players.

"That is what enabled us to win and it is really pleasing."

Neville, who was missing eight first-team players through injury, chose to look at the upside after only a few days in charge of the team.

"I'm positive about what I have seen in terms of the application," he said. "You see some of the effort put in by the players to try and recover the game, it was immense.

"I'm positive with what I've seen in the last two days in training.

"I know that they understand certain things that we want to do but tonight Lyon played a good game."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 11, 2015, with the headline 'Neville downplays possible United tie'. Print Edition | Subscribe