RVP’s two good for Cluj

Manchester United made it two wins in two games in the Champions League as they came from behind to beat Cluj 2-1 in Romania, courtesy of two goals from Robin Van Persie.

The Dutchman scored either side of half-time to secure United’s first win away from home in the Champions League for almost a year, but the Reds were made to sweat until the end for their three points.

When the groups were drawn Sir Alex Ferguson announced his intention to take the competition seriously this season, to avoid a repeat of last year’s embarrassing debacle that saw United knocked out in the group stage, and tonight’s selection showed that his statement was made out of conviction rather than simply to please the press.

Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney started for the first time together, with Hernandez completing a powerful attacking trio, while, with Giggs,Scholes and Carrick all missing out, Fletcher, Anderson and Cleverley were deployed in midfield. David De Gea replaced Anders Lindegaard in goal, with Fergie showing no intent of stopping his rotation policy between the two goalkeepers, while the back four was unchanged from Saturday’s game against Spurs.

Sir Alex had warned his side that a sloppy start would have had them in a difficult position but United, playing in the land of Dracula and vampires, despite beginning the match in control soon turned it into a horror show.

With the encounter barely a quarter of an hour old, the home side were in front as Patrice Evra was caught yet again out position, allowing Modou Sougou acres of space on Cluj’s right flank. The Senegal forward was quick to exploit Evra’s poor sense of position  before squaring the ball back towards the middle of the box, where Kapetanos calmly slotted it past David De Gea to make it 1-0 for the hosts.

Patrice Evra’s commitment to the club is unquestionable, few foreign players have embraced the United mentality as much as the former Monaco man has, but unfortunately his performances has suffered a drastic downturn in the last two-three seasons as the United captain has gone from being a cornerstone of his team’s back four to become a liability, as his defensive frailties get regularly exposed.

Evra’s lack of pace might be understandable as the years are catching up with him, but the lazy attitude and appalling sense of position he’s displayed over the last two seasons leave profound question marks on whether Fergie shouldn’t consider a long spell on the bench for the Frenchman.

United, to their credit, regrouped quickly, with Rooney, playing as the tip of a diamond-shaped midfield, forcing a good save from Cluj’s goalkeeper with 18 minutes gone. Sixty seconds later, Hernandez’s lay off found Anderson on the edge of the box but the Brazilian side-footed his effort wide of the post, as did Van Persie with 21 minutes on the clock, after having been brilliantly played through by Tom Cleverley. 

Cleverley, making his first Champions League appearance, often exchanged position with Rooney as both players dropped off Cluj’s back four looking to create space for their teammates, while Fletcher and Anderson sat deeper in the middle of the park but, while tonight’s diamond midfield offered dynamism and physicality, it lacked cutting edge out wide as Cluj were happy to sit back and invite United to attack through the middle channel, rather than out wide.

The Reds were level just before the half hour mark as Rooney free-kick was met by Van Persie shoulder and looped over Felgueiras and into the back of the net as Cluj illustrated how not to keep a high-line when defending a free kick, with their attempt to play the Dutchman offside failing miserably.

The goal, as soft as it might have been, was nothing less of United deserved as they patiently continued to switch the ball from side to side, averaging Barcelona-like stats in terms of possession, which reached the 70% at one point in the first half.

The visitors, as usual brilliantly supported by the traveling – and well oiled – Red Army, were ahead straight after the break as Rooney pinpoint ball over the top of Cluj’s back four found Van Persie who, having peeled off from his marker, slotted it past the onrushing keeper with the outside of his left foot.

The goal should have put United in total control but, while the Reds kept passing the ball with relative ease, they were unable to find the final pass as the necessity of introducing a wide man grew increasingly evident.

David De Gea had his reflexes tested as he palmed Cadu’s header over the bar after 55 minutes, before United seemed to have taken the sting out of the hosts, with a measured passing game. Wootton replaced Jonny Evans and Welbeck was introduced in place of Hernandez but De Gea came to United’s rescue deep in injury time, keeping out Bastos’ diving header to ensure United now sit alone at the top of the group.

Hardly a vintage performance, but perhaps the kind of professional display United so badly lacked in Europe last season.

Dan (@MUFC_dan87)

 

10 Comments

  1. United have looked all year that they should be sent to a remedial passing school – and today they had their first class. Led by a brilliant Rooney, they proved that making few mistakes will allow you to hold possession and control the game. I give them 8 out of 10 and a gold star.

    We could talk about the defense but what can be said other than it’s a joke and it’s gonna be a bad one for the foreseeable future. Lets just say, the less said the better.

    Good CMF selection today (albeit 4 of them) who proved the right picks can add some steel to matters and also have the potential to put a threat on goal – and why they didn’t do that is because this was an away game in the CL and Ferguson would have run them out of town if they forgotten their defensive duties.
    I did think Cleverly still looks confused and overawed by his situation, and that’s not to blame him, but he just crumbles in or around the box, doesn’t he?
    Fletcher – still a bit rusty and not yet match fit and Andersen, well he simply got lost in the sea of CMF’ers and it didn’t help that he was wearing his shoes on the the wrong feet.

    Hernandez looks more and more like the odd man out up front, and Evra – well what can you say – f%##ing c@#t of a player that belongs to be in the circus and not our first team.

    Overall I’ll be happy to stick the points in the bag, and then hope they believe that not all the lessons have been learned. 😉

    • @Redrich:
      Playing through the center is just not the United way. Thats all I hear from fans.

      I think we did rather well last night, for first time in a long time I didn’t see balls hoofed into the box hoping for someone to get on the end of it. The game has changed and we need to adapt. Any team that plays three in midfield will be the end of us. So yes, I want to see more of the 4-3-3 with Kagawa please.

  2. Three points last night, I will take that.

    On a side note, can someone tell me the win/loss percentage with Anderson playing or not.
    I felt he had a good game last night, played the long ball much better than Cleverly and for that stocky figure, he certainly showed good acceleration in midfield.

  3. A step in the right direction. – Birth of a plan B maybe?

    First thing first, I thank Sir Alex for thinking outside the box. While this wasn’t Manchester United at their best, it was the best I have seen this season. Last time I was thoroughly thrilled with Manchester United was when we demolished Arsenal (8-1). We played, narrow, we played with width, we played the short ball, we played the long ball, we dominated possession, we countered. I’m sure you get my drift. It wasn’t the score line; it was more the unpredictability of our game. We were supremely confident, we were dynamic, we had imagination. I implore you to watch the game again. i haven’t been impressed or excited manchester united since! Fact is lads we seem to be regressing in terms of personnel and quality of football being played. That being said, we have to make the best use of the squad we have and there is nobody better than Fergie at that, lets stop bashing the man that has served us so well and given us 27 odd trophies.

    Now to our diamond formation last night- Maybe it’s a cup tactic considering we played something similar against Newcastle But make no mistake for most parts of the season we will be playing with lots of width and will be using our wingers . WHY? Well simply because we have three of the best wingers in the premiership and they are simply too good to sit on the bench. They definitely cannot fit into the diamond. That being said it was great to final see a plan B.. (We did rely on Evra and Rafael overlapping – providing our width) It will take us a while to master the art of playing through the middle and resisting the temptation to pass out wide.

    All in All – Here are my observations

    1. If we do go diamond, Kagawa needs to be at the top of it (I mean it is his specialty after all), with Rooney partnering RVP upfront. Having said, all three have the technical ability so that they can all interchange.
    2. Can Nani and Ashley young fit into that system, if they can…… Where exactly? Except they come in to play upfront … Nah, I don’t see it working
    3. I like the Cleverly – Ando partnership. It provides balance and energy. Lots of room for improvement too which is a great.
    4. Fletcher’s position is arguably the most vital considering we have a shaky defense at the moment. Had Rio been a couple of years younger and Vidic been fully fit with Rafael and Evra concentrating better. It wouldn’t have been so vital a position. But under the circumstances, we definitely need a player with legs and an engine room to protect our insecure defense. I take you back to the Fletcher-Carrick-Anderson midfield trio that dominated Porto, Arsenal amongst others. The irony is Scholes and Giggs could NOT make the starting lineup then. Its laughable that we rely on them to start games 4 years later.**** Just Saying!!!! Talk about regression
    5. If we do decide to go back wide, that I suggest 4-4-1-1/ 4-2-3-1. With the Kagawa/Young on the left, Rooney behind RVP and Nani/Valencia on the right.. Naturally I would go with Ando and Clevers in the middle of the park. It would be more efficient if we had Phil Jones at Right back and Smalling fighting Rio his place. No starting place for Michael Carrick right now. I feel he is too flat footed. Don’t get me wrong I think he is one of the best in his unique position (along with Alonso, Busquets, Pirlo ) but with the right education Tom Cleverly and Anderson could fill that role. I mean he was ineffective against city in last years Charity Shield, and we all saw the difference the Tom Cleverly – Anderson partnership made after half time .

    Time will tell!

  4. I didn’t and NEVER will like that walking type of football we played last night, namely because it is BORING as shite. Man Utd have always been many things, but they were always the best at entertaining. The kind of football we played for 25 minutes in the 2nd half against spurs, is what United used to be renowned for, and until SAF fooked up by taking Kagawa off and putting DRIFTER Welbeck on, I believe Kagawa was beginning to find the spaces in the spurs defence, and we could well have got a draw, and maybe even a win. As soon as the subs came on it changed our pace and we dropped off from our pressure football again. Welbeck does not chase, gives up too easy and does NOT put in a shift, he doesn’t work hard enough and has little presence in a game. Evra is being skinned game after game after game, he doesn’t get anywhere close to his opposing players on his flank, and he is always costing us. Buttner should be blooded in as many home games as possible, because he does get close on opposition players, and has a better end product of assist or getting odd goal than Evra will. We should have gone for the third killer goal last night, and THEN played all that side passing and backpassing football in MF all the time. We are the PL champions at continual streams of backpassing. Still not happy with our brand of football, which has deteriorated these last 3 seasons beyond all recognition. Is that being negative, yeah probably is, but it is things I hear from United fans down the pub all the time, so we can’t all be wrong all of the time. Sorry lads, but are you all happy with Man Utd brand football, and please be honest! Thank you 😀 😀

    • @Craig Mc: Lets be honest as you said the last 3 seasons- basically post Ronaldo and Tevez, our football has been very average and quite frankly Im sick of our only tactic being pass to valencia and hope he gets by his man and hope that our strikers(non of whom-including wazza are great target men type headerers of the ball like drogba or someone) will score. Thats what were basically doing with our 4 4 2 wing play system because its such an outdated game). Therefore when watching us for a change not get choked to death by a team is refreshing. Yesterday all our attacking players had their fare share of the ball and on another day with better finishing it could have been 3 or 4-1. We USED to play entertaining football but that was years ago and since bar a few games weve been left complaining about the midfield etc…Id like to see us play the exact system in the premier league and see what happens. We shouldnt have bought players like shinji kagawa if we didnt intend of playing in a manner that suits the lad.

      • @Robbie: Couldn’t agree with you more, and especially about our one system tactic thru Valencia on the wing, and also about the ill use of Kagawa. That sadly is a SAF staple though isn’t it, buy players and worry afterwards about where to put them in the team. Square pegs – round holes and all that. We will just have to see where all this goes, SAF is the biggest Man Utd legend EVER, and we just have to hope that he is beginning to realise the United Brand football has been in decline for 3 plus seasons, because when we manage to turn it on as we did for 25 minutes 2nd half against spurs, things become clouded and gives the appearance everything is ok. So are players not motivated anymore – who knows eh mate?

  5. Sir Fergie, you football is dated – practically archaical, mothballed soccer, whatever!

    Anderson you need to drop some weight just like Wazza did if you want to perform at your best for the full game, instead of fading round about the 60 minute level of a game!

    We won yippee, but not because we played good football if we are honest. We did keep very good possession, so points fot that, shame we didn’t do enough with it.

  6. I thought Anderson played well again, Chicharito was the weak link in attack. I’d rather have seen Kagawa in alongside Rooney and RVP. I think we look better playing without wingers – Rafael and Evra can attack the down flanks pretty well.

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