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A few positive Cluj for the future?

Disappointed are we? Don’t be too disheartened, through defeat we find positives and here I am, new to Red Rants to throw some out there for you.

Surely starting with the impressive Scott Wootton is the only way to get this going? Given his chance after his continued progress in the U21’s side the centre-half effortlessly fitted in alongside Chris Smalling.

Smalling, who looked shaky at times throughout was continuously helped out by 21 year old Wootton who to me looked as comfortable and composed as possible. I recall only once that he made a mistake, selling Buttner short on a pass but without hesitation rushed back to make a glorious last ditch tackle on Sougou, who certainly was going to give De Gea a test.

Jonny Evans began his growth in to the first team around the same age as Wootton currently is and we are all now seeing how well Evans has progressed from the back end of last season to the full of this campaign so far. Have we got another Jonny Evans case in Wootton here? It’s certainly something to think about. For me, Scott was quite clearly man of the match.

Focusing on the game itself, it felt like Carrow Road all over again. Stuck in first gear with no real attempt to push on until the final ten or so minutes. Not to say we didn’t create any chances though.

Cluj made it tough. Without the ball they dropped to a back five with another four providing an extra shield. As Norwich did they worked hard to win the ball back quickly, always pressing the holder of the ball and were quite happy to let us send the ball out to the wings. Jones had numerous attempts from the right but failed to find a United head.

Jones, still on his comeback from injury did well throughout though and deserves a mention. Neat foot work from start to finish and a desire to power forward will always please the fans and his link-up play with Rooney was also attractive on the eye.

Cleverley’s injury was unfortunate but still showed what he is capable of. Like Jones, he had the quick feet to manoeuvre himself past and away from opposition players and looked a threat. His neat pass to set Hernandez through was precise and the only occasion in which we managed to get through the Cluj defence.

Impressive as Nick Powell has been, I feel tonight he tried too hard to impress although unlucky not to score. A deflected effort in the first half could easily have flown in to the net. His passing was hit and miss (a tad harsh perhaps) but at 18 he’ll always have a lot to learn.

With Paul Scholes beside him for an hour tonight he’s easily in the best hands to get his head down and absorb the clear genius that the ‘ginger prince’ still has.

Beyond the praise of our players a mention must go to Cluj goalkeeper Mario Felgueiras. Solid from first whistle to the last. If he hadn’t mentioned to keep out Welbeck’s first half header with an unorthodox save the result may have been different. He was also very decisive in coming out to claw the ball at first from Hernandez’ feet and then later with time running out, also at the feet of Macheda.

I’m sure at the age of 25. We may see a lot more of him.

The goal cannot be picked at unless to be extremely pedantic and feel that Smalling should’ve run towards him to block. That said, even I (Smalling alike I suppose) didn’t think that Luis Alberto would try his luck from that distance. It was a goal I’m sure any United player on the field tonight would’ve been proud to score.

Even at full time, Wayne Rooney gave acknowledgement to the goal scorer.

What does this mean for Sunday? Nothing from where I’m sitting. A completely different game, atmosphere and mentality. I’m excited for the game and quietly confident. I mean, what a way to stop our defensive critics with a clean sheet and three points, eh?

Asking for too much I suppose but we’ll see. For now, that’s all from me.

Jamie (@JamieTarrant)



  1. Pingback: A few positive Cluj for the future? | Manchester United News

  2. Redrich

    6 December 2012 at 04:05

    Honestly, if the best we can come up with is that Evans is an example for the progress of Wooten then I’m not sure the bar for this team can be lowered any further.
    As the standard of our starting players continues to plummet, it really is no coincidence that all the talent needed for an introduction from reserves to first team is the possession of possibility and the need to fill in for an injury (and not necessarily in that order).

    If we have an Academy, then those running it should be questioned about who is actually graduating from it. The average grade is no more than a C and possible a D and the proof of that lies in the results from games in which we turn things over to them. I would have expected at least two or three young players to have caught my eye in last year or two, but in all honesty, I see nothing of any import at all.
    I wonder if it’s only lip service that’s been given to the United tradition of re-loading our team with players that come from our lower ranks. A smoke screen that protects a failed policy of not spending on key players that we need.

    The stubbornness that permeates this policy is also not consistent. Spending a whopping 24m on RVP was sanctioned without question – and so our striker problems have seemingly been solved. However, the bigger, and perhaps more pressing issues of our central defense and, of course, our central MF, has been summarily dismissed because, apparently, we have depth within our squad or perhaps, emerging in our Academy.
    Ferguson, in an attempt to regale himself because of his big summer purchase, is now chastising the others for poor cover at the back.
    I suggest similar expenditure in other areas of need and not to rely so heavily on the fantasy that we can build only from youth.

    • Opti

      6 December 2012 at 04:50

      @Redrich: Pogba would have made it… but left for guaranteed more apps. Big mistake there.

      The criminal kid who left for West Ham or what now seems to have been no loss. Fryers was decent but left for Standard Liege and was summarily replaced by Büttner.

      We hear about Keane, Fabio, King, and others, but it is OBVIOUS that Fergie has little to no faith in these youngsters as they only appear in League cup games.

      THerefore, I side with you: experienced quality players need to bring the best out of our failing (C and D) youth academy.

    • The_Philosopher

      6 December 2012 at 10:17

      @Redrich: @Opti: Yeah Evans isn’t exactly what we should be aiming for as the standard of our defense. But he isn’t the finished article yet.

      He has, however, made some excellent progress. And if he can continue in that vein then who knows, he might be good enough to be world class.

      Lets believe the best of him. Lets not set negative and defeatist prophecies over him before he’s been given a proper chance.

      And with regards to the academy, I definately hear your point that we have not produced youngsters of notable quality recently.

      We don’t see the fresh faced Scholes’, Giggs’, Beckhams or Nevilles we saw in the passed being delivered to the first team by the academy.

  3. The_Philosopher

    6 December 2012 at 09:29

    Well written Jamie.

    Wooten is great. And Evans is a great relief to have in our defense department. He is solid but I’m waiting to see if he can be as good as Vidic or Ferdinand.

    Jones should be a right back in my view. He is too impulsive to be a centre back.

    It was a difficult game to sit through.

    Am I the only concerned about the fact that we don’t have quality wingers in the side?

    Nani is in the dog box and Valencia has lost his form (Ronaldo wouldn’t dip in form like Nani Valnecia have of late). Young is questionable at the moment.

    When I say quality winger I’m talking about world beaters like Juan Mata, Gareth Bale, Christy Ronlado, etc.

    Proper wingers? United has got none.

    Am I the only one concerned about that?

  4. Stephen

    6 December 2012 at 11:34

    Poor performance last night, the atmosphere was awful and the side were very disjointed.
    Buttner played well, but for me that was the only real positive. Welbeck never looks like scoring, Chichi is always poor when he starts. Scholes buzzed about well, but Fletch looked well off the pace.
    Bring on Sunday.

  5. Racs

    6 December 2012 at 14:13

    Really poor performance last night. Fine, the game had zero importance and we played a second string of players but that still doesn’t take away the fact that we continue to struggle with our play and which has been a common theme this season apart from a couple of games.

    The stand out performers last night were Phil Jones and perhaps Buttner at left back, the others were all over the shop.

    I’ve just had a glimpse of who we could be drawn with in the next round of the champions league and to be honest, it doesn’t look good if you ask me:

    Porto, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Shakhtar, Valencia, Celtic

    Out of those 6 teams I would fancy us to go through against Milan and Celtic but as for the other teams, I think we have to be realistc and say that it would be a tough task because Porto, Real, Shakhtar and Valencia are no push overs and are very much possession orientated teams and its clear we STRUGGLE against teams who play this way. This was clearly evident in Europe last season (Bilbao) and during our group games vs Braga and Galatassary this season. Even though they had less possession, I thought Cluj last night were more effective in possession than us whereas we dont seem to know what to do with it! We have struggled and continue to struggle against teams who favour a possession based approach and against these sorts of teams we are mile behind due to 2 factors… 1. they are technically superior than us and 2. our inability to be able to press agressively to try and win back the ball. Point 2 is pretty much out of the question especially because of the quality of our midfield, or lack of it, and the fact that we continue to be outrun in this area of the park on a consistent basis. Lets not even mention our defensive ability because adopting this approach would mean we would defend with a higher line and I am sure we would be destroyed. Our main strength continues to be the containing of such opponents and hitting them on the break and out wide. Unfortunatley for us lot of teams are beginning to nulify this strength of ours because we have no Plan B. They have no problem in conceding the midfield to us because they know we wont hurt them. We need to find and recruit 2 top class midfielders, period.

    And you would have thought we would have learned something after the 2 hidings we received from Barcelona.

    I will be there supporting the team I love through thick and thin however I just dont see us progressing to the last 16 if we draw one out of Porto, Real, Shakhtar and Valencia.

    My sincere apologies for the negativity however its just the way I see it at present!

    • Stephen

      6 December 2012 at 14:19

      @Racs: No plan B, is that why we have come back from being a goal down so many times this season?

    • Opti

      6 December 2012 at 15:17

      @Racs: Over two matches, we can beat Valencia and Shaktar.

      Porto and Madrid are more difficult. I could see us surprise Porto with an amazing home game and then hold on for high score draw 🙂

      Madrid, I don’t see how we could outscore…

      • Racs

        6 December 2012 at 15:37


        Granted. But it will be tough I reckon. Shaktar dominated Chelsea in 2 games and we all know how we have been fairing against spanish opposition within the last few seasons. And Valencia are a better side than Bilbao.

        I will always have faith in that we can beat any team over 2 legs and I just hope we turn up for both legs whoever we face in the next round!

        Its the champions league so I am sure we will be in for a couple of special games come February!


  6. Opti

    6 December 2012 at 15:22

    City Manager = Mourinho
    United Manager = Guardiola + OGS
    Chelsea Manager = Benitez

    Could it be any more soap-opera-like 😀

    • Stephen

      6 December 2012 at 17:00

      @Opti: This Summers managerial merry go round will be fascinating. Mourinho does seem to be on his last legs at Real, he has done his usual upsetting all and sundry and has spent his customary 2 seasons at a club. Guardiola will be getting back into management somewhere, either Chelsea, which could be career suicide of PSG. Mourinho probably fancies PSG, as they have stacks of money and really should easily be winning the French League with their resources.
      United will be interesting, seems odd that with a statue erected in his honour and IF we win the league, he really has done everything. It would be great to see him go out on a high, I would dread to see the Brian Clough scenario happen to him, lets wait and see.

      • The_Philosopher

        6 December 2012 at 19:15

        @Stephen: It would be so great if Ferguson could do the treble this season and then step down. (Or maybe even a double with one of the trophies being the premier league.)

        Mourinho/Guardiola/Moyes steps in and buys 2 quality midfielders right off the bat because they can see quite clearly what Ferguson doesn’t see. In fact anyone can tell you our midfield is not up to the requisite standard.

        Their first brief is to win the league.

        Solskjaer and Neville help the new gaffer come to terms with how things are done. The history the tradition the culture. And their combined brain power and expertice help the team continue winning games and developing seamlessly.

        It might even be a good thing for Ferguson to step down.

        The new man would have to recruit a few new faces. This would be a welcome augmentation to our team. The new man might be more enclined to buy expensive player than Ferguson was. What a treat. The only ones who would suffer are the Glaziers.

        Ferguson always goes for bargains. And he finds the type of B quality player that can be ‘whipped’ through hard work and a few blow dryer sessions into an A quality performer.

        The new man would buy more A’s than B’s hopefully but still develop potential players in the way Ferguson did.

        Its how United role. We don’t buy mercenaries. We train warriors in-house.

        It would just be refreshing to see someone else work that model with new eyes. Different eyes to the ones Ferguson sees through but with the same unyielding drive to succeed.

        Some fear the change but we have to start believing there is life after Fergie.

        I am by no means calling for Ferguson’s head. But when he does eventually step down it would be a major turning point for our club. Hopefully for the better.

        Ferguson always looks for character as well when searching the markets. He looks for someone who will fight. Someone who is determined to be dominant. Someone who is bent on winning and achieving. Someone who has an unusual capacity for dealing with adversity. And someone who has great ability or good enough ability but Ferguson never compromises on the character.

        Thats why he loved Tevez so much because he was a fighter.

        And thats why he loved Park Ji Sung so much because although Park was not the most skilled of players his work ethic and his capacity to fight were exceptional.

        Thats why he paid Rooney whatever he wanted when he threatened to leave becaue Rooney is the ultimate warrior when things get thick. He is a force of nature.

        Thats why he is persevering with Fletcher.

        All real reds have a fire in their belly. No pun intended.

        Thats why he got rid of Obertan because Obertan was a whiner and couldn’t deal with the pressure. When he arrived at New Castle the first interview he did he was moaning about how there’s so much competition and pressure at Manchester United.

        Under Sir Alex Ferguson United is a pressure cooker. You fight or die. And the players who allow themselves to be refined in his crucible are the ones he has great affinity for.

        Nani is probably too much of a baby for Ferguson’s liking. He is taking too long to grow up.

        The new man will have to continue in this vein. In this great tradition of producing battle hardened, combat evolved warriors instead of buying money hungry mercenaries. This is the United way.

        • Stephen

          7 December 2012 at 08:58

          @The_Philosopher: Mate when you say “I am by no means calling for Ferguson’s head. But when he does eventually step down it would be a major turning point for our club. Hopefully for the better.”

          Hasn’t Fergie done enough? You say he buys fighters, not mercenaries but then in the next breath want us to buy ready made players.

          Fergie and the culture of the club which he has developed has always been about buying youth and developing players who intertwine into the fabric of the club. There was a debate on Talksport of how many United players would get into the City side. The consensus was 3 or 4. For me this is where they are going wrong. City sign players generally for the money, they are all Gods unique and special snow flake. All have fantastic body art, all so precious that they should never be dropped, substituted or told off.

          The United way is all about the team and what is good for it. If a player gets too big for his boots or damages that bond, see Beckham or Stam, then regardless of how big the player is or who odd the decision sounds, he is out on his ear.

          I like the club the way it is, Fergie with all his faults has made a nearly team into a winning team and we should never forget that.

        • Ian

          7 December 2012 at 09:09

          That’s why I expected Rooney to leave. Why do you think SAF made an exception there?

        • The_Philosopher

          7 December 2012 at 09:26

          @The_Philosopher: Stephen: We bought Van Persie and he is ready made.

          I’m not saying we must never buy ready mades.

          I’m just saying we must stick to developing the youngsters like we have always done and where we need to fill gaps we can buy a ready made player.

          We can’t do like City and Chelsea do (firstly cause we don’t have that kind of money) and buy a whole squad whilst neglecting youth development.

          And Van Persie is the perfect ready made purchase. He is a warrior and not a mecenary. If he was is in it just for the money he would have gone to City.

          But he came to United for the love of football even though we couldn’t pay him what City were gonna pay him.

  7. Stephen

    6 December 2012 at 15:36

    Fergie seems to be covering himself for Sunday, with quotes like: “Beating City would be a major scalp” And: “If we win [on Sunday] it will be one of our best ever results,”
    For me he should man up, if we play like we can we will win this game. The character in our side is far better the mercenaries over the road.
    He needs to work on the back four which will tighten up the defence.
    We will always score goals, lets attack them which currently for us is the best form of defence and take the game to them, we have no other choice.

    • Moscow

      6 December 2012 at 16:58

      @Stephen: I don’t know mate, Toure and Silva against our midfield just doesn’t look good.

      • Stephen

        6 December 2012 at 17:02

        @Moscow: Is Silva fit? We could get totally dominated in midfield, especially with Cleverley and Anderson almost definatly out.
        Scholes, Giggs, Fletch with Carrick is a scary thought………..

        • Opti

          6 December 2012 at 18:03

          @Stephen: I think Silva will only be half-fit for game… better than Scholes on current form, I guess.

          GK, Rio, Carrick, Valencia/Nani/Young and Rooney+RvP would need to be at top form for us to win/draw. Completely possible!!!

          COME ON YOU RED!!!


    • The_Philosopher

      6 December 2012 at 19:06

      @Stephen: I was glad to see Giggs and Scholes playing last night.

      It probably means they won’t feature in the Manchester derby. Thank goodness.

      Cleverley and Anderson are out so it will probably be Fletcher and Carrick in the middle.

      or Carrick and Scholes

      Rooney and Van Persie will start up front. Chicha will be the secret weapon on the bench to be released in the dying moments of the game wreak havoc

      Valencia and Young on the wings. Valencia will just have to play hurt.

      And Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand and Evra will guard the posts. Jones or Smalling might deputise for Rafael.

      De Gea should be in goal for this one.

      Thats how I see it lining up.

      Rooney’s gonna have to link everything together. He will be running up and down defending, passing the ball out of our half trying to find Valencia, Young and Van Persie and he will also weigh in on the scoring of goals.

      Rooney’s gonna have to carry the team. He is the heartbeat of our team. Thats why I’m alway advocating he play as a central midfielder because in the big games he does everything on the pitch, so why not make it official?

      • Racs

        6 December 2012 at 19:36

        I think a draw on Sunday would be a good result considering our inconsistency so far this season. Sure we are top of the league but we should not take that for granted because there is soooo much work still to do. I really hope we are in the transfer market come January for a midfielder.

        5 in midfield for me on Sunday with a view at containing and then hitting them on the break. Its the only way i see us being able to compete with Shitty. We will concede possession, there is no doubt about it, because lets face it, their midfield and squad in general are technically superior to ours. We need to play to our strengths which is width and pace. We need to play with width because there is no way we will be able to compete centrally. If we can put in a performance like we did last year against them in the FA Cup then we have a chance of taking all 3 points for sure. But if we defend like we have for the majority of this season, then we will be punished as SAF rightly pointed out at his press conference earlier this week. Lets just hope they have been carrying out some in depth defensive work on the training ground this week.

        I’m going for the following line up and formation which is similar to how we set up against Chelsea (4-5-1 / 4-1-4-1) when we tore them to shreds in the 1st half hour of that game with quick breaks down the flanks.

        …………………..De Gea…………………..





        I seem to fancy Jones on the right side after his performance against Cluj, Very solid and dangerous when he got forward. Perhaps on the back on his performance last night SAF might just start him. I hope Valencia is fit and its a toss of a coin for me on who starts on the left side because to be honest, Young and Welbeck for some reason are not showing the quality required to have any influence on a game whatsoever. The other option is to chuck Rooney out on the left cutting in to support RVP but then who plays in midfield? Scholes? Giggs? No thank you….

        Wish Kagawa would be back fully fit as he could take up the left sided role with ease as he did at Borussia where he was immense. His creativity, movement and vision are top drawer but we will only see this in full flow once he gets back to full fitness and adapts even further to the demand of playing for such a high profile club and the premier league in general. It looks like this game has come too soon for him which is a shame because he could very well be our “little magician” just as Silva is for Shitty.

        Having said the above I do think we will get something out of the game and I am positive we will, which would be brilliant for us going into the busy Christmas period. And if we play well on Sunday then I am hoping it will continue into next weeks game vs Sunderland which I will be flying over for! CANT WAIT!!!! They deserve a hammering from us especially after what happened at the final whistle at the last game of last season!


  8. Redrich

    7 December 2012 at 04:01

    Best possible MF formation against citeh has to be Carrick (defending) and Fletcher (interfering) and with Kagawa [if fit] and Valencia (attacking). It gives us a solid defending shape and the transitional possibility of thrusting, hard, at their throat.
    Forget the back line, they are toast in every game and it won’t get better until we have better players, so the way forward is, as it’s always been, create the chances and score more than them.
    Without the nuance of quality in all aspects of our game, this United has to be the gambler. The kind of team that exaggerated its strengths and tries as hard as it might , to disguise all of its weaknesses.
    So with Mancini perhaps, considering this game as the kind of hand that will make or break the rest of his young season, I would bet that he’s gonna blink and go conservative with his game plan – try to make it a dead-lock in MF and then win the game with a counter.
    United can win this game easily with a bolder plan (ala Chelsea) that attacks them hard and often at the beginning of hostilities, then hold their ground by subbing Kagawa with Scholes and trying to dominate time of possession.
    It’s clear now that we won’t be able to dictate our own terms, so the idea has to be, beat them how they can beaten and not how we like to play. It’s like kind of being a coal-miner after you fail at college. You just have to do what you have to do, just to get by.
    It’s not an un-reversible scenario – unless, of course, you just want to be the coal-miner, in which case, you have to expect a dark and dirty future!

    • Opti

      7 December 2012 at 05:01

      @Redrich: I like what I read… until “subbing Kagawa with Scholes” 😯

      Kagawa for Phil Jones would secure more possession… Scholes couldn’t handle 45 minutes against Cluj without losing possession and being overrun… less so against City.

      Also, Valencia is a very wide player (some call him a line-hugger). I forgot the game we played where Valencia was the single wide man and we basically had no left side — we were predictable. Then Nani came on and balanced us out and we did much better… We need balance and symmetry to attack fluently and defend properly (i.e. don’t leave Rafael to defend against two players…)

      —— De Gea ——
      ——- Carrick——
      Vally- Fletcher- Kaga-

      • Ian

        7 December 2012 at 09:11

        I think Cleverley will start, mind games there I reckon, the knock he took shouldn’t keep him out imo. We’ll see tho.

        • Stephen

          7 December 2012 at 09:15

          @Ian: He also did the samw with Keane and to some degree Ronaldo.
          Some players get too influenced by their agent, I think Fergie saw that, spoke with the player and moved on. What Rooney did was very poor and does stick in the throat somewhat.

  9. Jay wire

    7 December 2012 at 10:08

    Moving forward, I have to say the Anderson injury is a massive blow. His form was making it extremely hard for Ferguson to keep selecting Giggs and to some extent Scholes. But the reality is, Anderson came into a very depressing side and made an immediate and amazing difference. Our football was bad football and lots of goals scored and shipped. The issue is simple really. He made us unpredictable. Having the shackles taken off, probably naturally, because Ferguson seems to have generally thrown caution to the wind in the way we play, he had freedom to take risks. He runs at players through the middle and that completely changes the scope of our football.

    Before, our predictability lied in Scholes as the playmaker,who can’t advance with the ball, but relies on players moving into spaces and making the pass. Problem is with the 4-4-2 wide play, you had both wingers sticking to the wings and a big gap in the centre between midfield and the 2 forwards. Rooney trying to play the attacking link, was struggling to link and be inventive. Which means for Robin to get involved he has to drop back into midfield. Confusion. It also had both Scholes and Carrick taking very advanced positions, to close the gap. Which in itself, simply shifts the gap from being between midfield and the forwards, to a gap between midfield and defence. That’s how we conceded with almost every single counter attack. Anderson coming in, simply closed the gap between midfield and attack because he moves with and without the ball. He can dribble past players in midfield, run with the ball in the middle. This allows the forwards to concentrate on attacking. It’s a simple difference that makes all the difference. We become unpredictable, because, an advancing attacking midfielder, is a threat, but you also have 2 or 3 or more players running off him.

    Paul Scholes in a 2 man midfield doesn’t work. It’s a great shame because, right now we had found the tactical solution, at least to the attack, but it was shortlived. Kagawa in the same position and role would have been even better. But he’s injured and will be back around February. That’s probably our biggest misfortune. Cleverley would probably have been the alternative, but like Anderson, he couldn’t get into the squad ahead of Giggs and Scholes, which means he is not in the right condition to take that role immediately. It’s a shame that these guys, with match fitness and a run of games, are exactly what we need, whilst Scholes and Giggs are the first choices in Ferguson’s eleven. Carrick is enough experience in midfield as well as Fletcher. Partner them with the energy of Cleverley or Anderson and it’s a perfect foil. Scholes and Giggs have experience, but they are limited in certain key issues. Scholes for me, is perfect when we play a solid but versatile system, with a competent attacking link ahead of him. That means, a 3 man midfield. Giggs, in my opinion, can be a great liability, because he seems to need more time on the ball these days. If we’re pressured in possession, which these days happens even in exhibition matches, he loses the ball. He’s a good guy and has a brilliant football brain, but unfortunately, execution has become harder for him.

    • The_Philosopher

      7 December 2012 at 12:30

      @Jay wire: So well written.

      Giggs does have a great football mind but his body is past it.

      Lets admit it and move on.

      I mean well written for the whole thing not just the Giggs part.

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