Manchester United succumbed to their second successive Champions League defeat with a 1-0 loss at home to CFR Cluj in a game that meant literally nothing to the reds.
Already safely champions of group H, Sir Alex sent out a weakened side, resting the likes of van Persie, Ferdinand and Rafael ready for this weekends derby against Manchester City. The goalkeeper merry-go-round continued as De Gea started in nets behind a back four of Buttner, Smalling, Wootton, and Jones. The midfield four lined up in a hap-hazard diamond formation with Rooney wide right, Nick Powell wide left, Giggs deep and Cleverley at the tip in behind Welbeck and Hernandez – a midfield that seemed to successfully waste the talents of all four participants.
On balance United had the better of a stale first half, Scott Wootton with a particularly impressive last-ditch tackle early, on and should have been ahead after Scholes picked out Smalling with an inviting cross, only for the impressive centre-half to head wide from a matter of yards out – ‘he did well to clear that there..’ said @thedevilstweets sarcastically sat next to me in the half empty stands.
Just before half time Tom Cleverley was withdrawn with a calf injury and replaced by Paul Scholes. Cleverley is now in some doubt for Sunday’s derby game though he will be assessed by United’s medical staff tomorrow.
The second half followed much the same pattern as the first, save for a superb goal from Luis Alberto 10 minutes after the restart. No one from United seemed inclined to close him down, so he ambled towards the East Stand and unleashed a wicked shot that glanced off the post and in. De Gea, though not at fault for that one, had a mixed game including once instance of passing the ball out straight to a Cluj forward that i would have gone to town on had it been Lindegaard. Such a mistake i believe is more likely down to a lack of match-sharpness in the case of De Gea though, were as Lindegaard fundamentally lacks the skill to kick the ball accurately.
United attempted to move through the gears slightly and pushed for the equalizer, but in truth never really looked A) dangerous, or B) arsed that they didn’t look dangerous. The biggest laugh of the night came when the attendance of 71,521 was announced to a ground that was at a maximum, 3/4 full meaning i think a figure closer to 50,000 was far more realistic.
The draw for the next round of the Champions League will be made on the 14th of December. United can face FC Porto, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic or Valencia.