When and where: The Champions League Group H clash kicks-off from the Stadionul Dr. Constantin Radulescu at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a live stream available on FoxSoccer2Go.
Preview: Having endured a nervy victory against Galatasaray in their opening Champions League contest two weeks ago, Manchester United continue their quest to avoid a second-straight group-stage elimination with a trip to Transylvania and a meeting with Cluj.
United’s less than convincing start to the season continued with a 3-2 home loss to Tottenham on Saturday and manager Sir Alex Ferguson will be looking for a response from his side against the Romanian champions.
United’s midfield, so overrun in the first half at the weekend, is set to be much changed. Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs have all been left at home, the latter two suffering with a virus. There is little that can be done to alter a back line that were also cut apart last time out, with injuries still ruling out Nemanja Vidic, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. Antonio Valencia will also still be missing with an ankle injury.
Ferguson knows that he cannot afford to take too many chances with his team selection, however, given the ignominy they suffered with their early exit in the competition last season. Wayne Rooney’s impact as a second-half substitute against Tottenham means that he is likely to start in Romania with Robin van Persie potentially rested.
While far from a giant of European soccer, Cluj have already given fair warning that they should not be taken lightly. Ioan Andone’s side bat Basel home and away in the Champions League playoffs, something Ferguson should appreciate after his team were knocked out by the Swiss champions in last year’s group phase. On match day one, Cluj caused perhaps an even bigger surprise as they went to Portuguese side Braga and won 2-0, despite their opponents having 23 attempts on target.
Rafael Bastos scored both goals against his former club on that occasion and will be relied on to provide the attacking spark once again, playing behind Greece international Pantelis Kapetanos.
CFR Cluj (probable)
D: Pinto, Cadu, Rada, Sepsi
M: Alberto, Muresan
Sougou, Bastos, Camora
Manchester United (probable)
G: De Gea
D: Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra
M: Cleverley, Anderson
Nani, Kagawa, Welbeck
Prediction: Manchester United have looked a long way from potential Champions League winners so far this season and were perhaps fortunate to come away from their opening Champions League encounter with a victory. However, with a changed midfield and a eager Rooney back from the start, there should be better energy and dynamism about the United side from the start on Tuesday.
Cluj are unlikely to give United an easy ride, but Ferguson’s side should enough to get an important three points away from home.
CFR Cluj 1-2 Manchester United
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