The Dutchman strikes again (Pirates of the Caribbean headline)By: Ian | October 3rd, 2012
The midweek trip to Romania was a bit of unknown entity. All I know about FC Cluj is that they are a football team who send out 11 players to put the ball into the back of the net more times than their opponents. And they must manage it relatively well in their league as they’re in the Champions League. Maybe the element of the unknown forced Sir Alex to pick a strong side, featuring Rooney and Van Persie starting together for the first time, along with Chicharito up front. When Cluj saw those names on the teamsheet, it would have been obvious that Sir Alex was going for the draw. In the same way that Utd, upon receiving Cluj’s teamsheet, would have immediately started to look at Pele’s top 125 footballers to see their opponents at work.
I am not mocking Cluj, for I know so little about them. I did discover early on that the stadium, despite holding about 18,000, did not have the provision for a TV studio, ensuring ITV’s presenters got well soaked with lawn sprinklers pre-game. Utd also discovered they have pace, for Utd (copy and paste here) started poorly and Cluj, like so many recent opponents, took the lead first, and early on too. Utd gave the illusion of starting well, the Utd half could have been closed for maintenance in the first ten minutes and no one would have noticed. But the workmen would have had to scatter fairly quickly, as Bastos, showing Cluj’s line in impressive cross-field paces, sailed a ball over to speed-demon Sougou, who drifted past Evra with shocking ease. His ball across the box looked tame, but despite just one forward in the box, the marking was appaling and Kapetanos slid the ball home. 1-0 to Cluj, an awful start, an embaressment for the defence, particulary Evra, and more evidence of an unhealthy trend Utd need to shake off quickly.
It did, unlike Tottenham, kickstart Utd a bit, who, after a few half-hearted efforts, regained parity on 29 minutes with a goal of some fortune. Rooney drifted in a free kick and Van Persie, trying to header but misjudging, saw the ball loop over the goalkeeper after it collided with his shoulder. Nothing illegal in that, and 1-1.
The pressure was at least sustained, and Cluj seemed happy to conduct the match in the comforts of whatever half they playing from. Although it made for some frustration, a gap was found just after half time with Rooney, outwide, playing a great ball through to RVP for a second assist, as the Dutchman flicked expertly past the Cluj keeper. 2-1, great finish, and that was to be it for the goals.
I became disappointed with Utd’s attitude after that. I thought they shut up shop far too early, even with a lead to protect, and Cluj seemed to recognise this. They knew a chance would come, and come it did, with a corner that had De Gea tipping Cadu’s header over the bar. Van Persie had a chance to clinch a hattrick, but to no avail, and the next action was Evans departing the field, for yet another injury in our defence. Struggling for the weekend apparently.
Cluj’s last through of the dice was obvious in its buildup, you could see it happening, and De Gea splendidly kept the lead with a save from Bastos. That wrapped things up and Utd grab another three points, even if they were a bit unrefined. I feel certain it would have been more of a game had Sougou not gone off, for up till then he was giving Evra a nightmare, with the Frenchman incredibly slow to respond. He attacked as usual, but he kept forgetting his actual role of defending, and kept getting caught out of position early on. I’d much rather, with the current defence frailities, for him to stay back and focus on his job. Otherwise, its a bit like a managing director saying he’s done all the office shredding, but he’s forgotten to attend that sales meeting that could have sorted out a £100m deal.
I have more complaints, but I’ll keep them quiet as we’re now on six points in qualification and without a highly unlikely cock-up, we’ll be qualifying. Your thoughts below please.