Manchester United’s unconvincing Champions League form continued in Romania as the Red Devils made hard work of a 2-1 win over CFR Cluj.
Sir Alex Ferguson had spoken before the match of the need for his side to start strongly, but again it fell behind early on to a Pantelis Kapetanos strike before Robin van Persie struck twice to seal victory.
The visitors made six changes from the side that lost to Spurs at the weekend. David De Gea returned in goal whilst Anderson, Tom Cleverley, and Darren Fletcher featured in midfield, and Wayne Rooney and Chicharito joined Robin van Persie in attack.
Yet despite all the attacking talent on show from Manchester United it was CFR Cluj who struck first.
Brazilian Rafael Bastos began the move picking out Modou Sougou on the right with a superb diagonal ball. The CFR Cluj number 99 then crossed into the box where a completely unmarked Kapetanos swept the ball low and into the corner past a despairing De Gea.
At home and with a precious lead against illustrious opponents, CFR Cluj sat back and awaited the inevitable onslaught and United duly went on the attack with Rooney turning and firing wide before Van Persie thumped a decent chance past the post after neat work by Cleverley.
However, against a side which has kept just two clean sheets in its last 12 matches it was little surprise to see United finally score just shy of the half hour mark when Van Persie pulled the Red Devils level.
A free kick from the left was swung in by Rooney finding the Dutchman completely unmarked, and his looping header dipped over goalkeeper Mário Felgueiras and into the back of the net.
The visitors continued to dominate the play but had to wait until just after the interval to finally take the lead and again it was Rooney who was the provider. The England international, out wide on the right, floated a perfectly-weighted ball through to Van Persie who grabbed his second of the night with a neat flick over the onrushing Felgueiras.
Yet it was not all one-way traffic and Cluj came back strongly with goalscorer Kapetanos firing high and wide when in space and with plenty of time, before another superb corner from Bastos found Cadu heading strongly at goal but an alert De Gea managed to tip it to safety.
However, United managed to reassert its grip on the game and patiently kept possession to see the game out safely, without ever really looking like adding to its tally, and with chances at a premium in the closing stages.
Indeed perhaps the best chance of the second half, came in stoppage time, but it was the hosts who almost equalized in sensational style. Yet again the danger came from the Cluj right flank, with Pinto crossing for Bastos to fire a bullet header goalwards but a vital stop from De Gea at his near post saved his side and ensured the visitors went home with all three points.
- David De Gea
- Wayne Rooney
- Robin van Persie
- Manchester United
- Tom Cleverley
- CFR Cluj