After a poor Champions league show last season and recently suffering a 3-2 defeat to Tottenham at Old Trafford last weekend, it was evident that Sir Alex Ferguson is not gonna let loosen the hook and henceforth landed a strong starting 11 in United's 2-1 win over the Romanian champions CFR Cluj in their second Champions league match last night. Manchester United have been playing way below their standards and have conceded a goal before scoring any in 6 out of the 8 matches they have played this season. Defence has been hobbling with injuries with Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones out until start of the November. So rather than the vulnerable defence, it was time to concentrate more on the attack and make it as strong as possible. The triplet of Wayne Rooney , Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez all starting the game together justified it and United was all ready to go for the kill. Morover, it was great to see all the 3 midfielders- Darren Fletcher, Tom Cleverley and Anderson getting their first Champions league start this season. The experience of Fletcher and the pace and quickness of the young guns Anderson and Cleverley ensured that the United game doesn't slow down and matches up the pace of the 3 front runners.
The Red Devils dominated the game with 68% possession and had full control over the game after Cluj went 1-0 up when Pantelis Kapetanos netted the ball past David Degea in the 14th minute after a brilliant cross by Modou Sougou from the right wing. United soon capitalised through 2 Van Persie strikes both provided by Wayne Rooney and took the much deserved victory back home.
5 positives that United can take out of this match :
1. Rooney looked promising on return
Wayne Rooney has been out of action for the last 2 months after suffering a horrific thigh injury against Fulham at old Trafford. This break has proven to be good for the United starlet who has come back strongly with his performances against Newcastle in the Capital cup and now Cluj last night. He has showed terrific passing and ball control and has been the sole playmaker in all the goals scored by United in these 2 matches.
2. Rooney - Van Persie dovetail
The combined effect of Rooney and Van Persie was well showcased last night with the former being the goal maker and latter the goal scorer for both the goals. Both combined well throughout the game and showed some good passing and one-to-one touches amongst each other as well as with Hernandez. The 2nd goal was sheer class and an epitome of greatness that both of them could achieve in the time to come. With more games to come, the Rooney - Van Persie partnership is gonna do wonders for United and prove a nightmare for all the other teams.
3. Degea becoming better
Last night was a test for the Spanish keeper who has not got a regular start in the Premier league with Lindegaard being the United keeper for the last 2 matches. Sir Alex has said that Degea is still young and needs to learn from his mistakes and work a lot before getting a regular start to every game. As for his performance last night against Cluj, he showed a good temperament througout with some fine saves and an excellent one in the dying seconds of the game to ensure United the 3 points.
4. Fletcher, Anderson and Hernandez get a Start
Darren Fletcher after suffering an year long injury has bounced back well and got his first start in the Champions league this season last night. Though he didn't look at the very best in his game but it will soon come as he plays more and more games. Anderson and Hernandez this season have been overshadowed by the numerous options in the United midfield and attack for Sir Alex Ferguson and thus both have not got a regular start to the game. But last night's game gave them enough confidence and desire to play their heart out and both of them impressed the manager to get regular starts in the league as the season goes further.
5. Cleverley becoming the playmaker
Tom Cleverley, the 23 year old Englishman has been unfortunate in his United career. His first season as a Manchester United player was plagued last year with an injury which kept him out till the end. He has come back fitter and stronger this season but still hasn't got enough starts to display his potential. But last night was a major break for him and he took the chance with both hands and played very good indeed. He left no part of the ground uncovered and moved swiftly all throughout, sometimes backwards to the defenders, sometimes storming the front with the attack, sometimes moving at the wings both the right and the left and also making the game from the center. He had a big part to play in the United's win over Cluj and looks all set and ready to fill the heavy boots of the legendary Paul Scholes.
The only concern area for United is their defence which is very vulnerable, so they must ensure that they pace up their game in the front and score goals before their opponents do otherwise a Tottenham feat might come again.