CFR 1907 Cluj v/s Manchester United
UEFA Champions League
Dr Constantin Radulescu Stadium
KO – 1845 GMT
Sir Alex Ferguson takes his Manchester United side to Romania to take on CFR Cluj in the UEFA Champions League. After a disappointing performance and result at the weekend he will be hoping for a better result. United were sleeping for the entire first half against Spurs at the weekend and paid the price for it. They face a Cluj side, in the midst of a mediocre start in the domestic league. Even though they are not having the best of times domestically, they did secure an unlikely away win at Braga. Rafael Bastos, a former Braga player scored a brace and helped conquer his old side. Wayne Rooney has warned his side to be aware of the Giant Killers and rightly so. They may be struggling at home but the result in Portugal means that the Romanian side will pose a threat and cannot be taken lightly.
Cluj and United may be locking horns but the coach of the home team Iaon Andone has had a run in with Ferguson and his team. He was the coach of Dinamo Bucharest in 2004-05 when United knocked them out in the qualifying stages. They qualified for the Champions League with performances at home. Cluj have had a mixed season in their domestic league and yet they have averaged more 2 goals a game. The attacking flair of the Romanians is pretty clear but there defense is a bit of a concern. They have leaked in 14 goals in 10 matches in the league and even though they kept a clean sheet against Braga, Manchester United a whole new proposition. At home they are a much better side defensively, at least statistically. They are sitting 5th in the league and the reason for it being their inability to defend leads. Although, Andone likes to attack, against United he may have to curb his natural instincts and opt for a more defensive formation. Bastos and Kapetanos have been outstanding for the Romanian side and the fans will be hoping these two deliver against United and help the team pull off a shock result against the English giants.
CFR 1907 Cluj – Attack is the best form of defense. Cluj are very good going forward and attacking teams but they are equally poor at the other end of the pitch. They have a Portuguese spine in their defense with three of the five players in defense being Portuguese. Pinto, the right back had a tendency to bomb forward at every opportunity possible but against United he will have to be a little more disciplined. Upfront the trio of Kapetanos, Valente and Sougou has been doing the job for the Romanians. Bastos, the Brazilian who has been the most influential players for the club this season will have to be at his to shackles the Red Devils. He is comfortable playing at both wings and given the fact that Evra has had problems with fast and skillful wingers, Andone may deploy him on the right side of midfield. They have been banging goals for fun and their midfield has been a very big part of it. Gabriel Muresan, a defensive midfielder by trade already has 4 goals to his name. He not only provides excellent cover to his defenders but also chips in with important goals.
Manchester United – The travelling squad selection comes a bit of a surprise. Sir Alex Ferguson who stressed on the point to not repeat the mistakes of last season is travelling without Carrick, Scholes, Giggs and Valencia who is yet to fully recover from an ankle injury. This move puts pressure on the likes of Tom Cleverly and Anderson who are certain starters in the centre of midfield. Also in the limelight will be the Portuguese winger, Nani who had a mixed game at the weekend. With Vidic, Jones and Smalling being long term casualties Ferdinand-Evans will be the men in the centre of defense. Rafael and Evra will be the preferred full backs although Buttner has come in and challenged the French left back. Wayne Rooney whose entry on the pitch galvanized the team against Sunday will be first of the team sheet. Another positive point which came after the Rooney substitution was the combination and interplay between the top three i.e. Rooney, Persie and Kagawa. The manager will be tempted to start with the trio as they completely dominated the Spurs defense.
CFR Cluj – Rafael Bastos – The Brazilian midfielder has been instrumental in the club’s recent successes. The winger scored both the goals in the previous matchday against his old side Braga. Since leaving Braga and coming to Romania, Bastos has resurrected his career. Regular first team football has definitely helped and he will cause United fullbacks a lot of problems with his pace and trickery.
Manchester United – Wayne Rooney – On Saturday, Wayne Rooney took the field at the start of the second half and completely turned the game on its head. His passion and determination rubbed off on the other players and the difference was there for all to see. If fit, he is an automatic starter for the team and Cluj will be have to keep a very tight leash on him if they are to get anything from this match.