VIDEO Manchester United 2-1 CFR Cluj: Highlights; Van Persie Brace Edges United to Victory in Transylvania
By Jason Le Miere | October 3, 2012 6:42 AM EST
Robin van Persie opened his Champions League account for Manchester United with a brace that saw his side come from behind to beat CFR Cluj in Transylvania.
Having earned much criticism for their defeat, and the manner of it, to Tottenham on Saturday, United were again cut open inside 15 minutes as the Romanian champions took the lead through Greece international Pantelis Kapetanos. But United’s dominance of proceedings eventually told as Van Persie scored a fortunate equalizer around the half-hour mark before netting a fine winner soon after half-time.
After an opening day win against Braga when their opponents had 35 shots on goal, Cluj looked set for another backs-against-the-wall performance as they dropped deep in the early stages. United’s control encouraged full-backs Rafael and Patrice Evra to go forward to compensate for the lack of width up field as Sir Alex Ferguson elected for a narrow front three of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez.
But despite their early dominance, Evra was caught badly out of position as Cluj opened the scoring with an incisive breakaway. Rafael Bastos exposed Evra with a brilliant cross field pass to find Modou Sougou to take the ball on before whipping a dangerous low ball in to Kapentanos who took advantage of some slack marking and swept the ball first time past David De Gea.
After Sougou showed him a clean set of heels again a few minutes later, Evra must have been delighted to see his Senegalese opponent leave the pitch with an injury after just 24 minutes.
Just five minutes later United breathed a sigh of relief as they pulled level. The combination of Rooney and Van Perise, starting their first match together, paid off in unusual circumstances as Rooney’s free-kick from the right was looped over the head of Mario Felgueiras by the shoulder of Van Persie.
With the launchpad of an equalizer and without the threat of Sougou’s pace on the break, United began to create further chances.
Playing ahead of Anderson and Darren Fletcher in the midfield, Tom Cleverley was starting to find space. After earlier having set up Van Persie for a first time effort that went wide of the post, his short pass connected with Hernandez, whose snap shot went straight at the goalkeeper.
The front three’s license to roam was beginning to cause problems too and, dropping off, Hernandez turned and picked out Van Persie with some space to move in on goal but the Dutch forward’s shot lacked conviction and was comfortably parried away by Felgueiras.
The linkup of United’s forwards would pay dividends just four minutes after the break.
Rooney out on the right showed his often underrated vision and passing ability as he produced an inch perfect ball to Van Persie racing clear into the center of the box and the former Arsenal man met it on the volley with a delightful flicked finish past the stranded Felgueiras with his left foot.
With their counter-attacking game plan now undone, the Romanian champions were forced to go forward and for a spell looked dangerous when they did so.
Some more slack United defending almost undid their good work as Cadu was allowed a free header from a corner that De Gea had to push over the bar.
United largely regained control for the closing stages, though, albeit with little of the same attacking urgency that characterized their play earlier in the contest. In a rare burst of impetus, Van Persie just failed to get onto the end of Rooney’s low cross into the six yard box with 20 minutes remaining.
There was late pressure from Cluj too with De Gea having to come to United's rescue as he dived to turn away Rafael Bastos' header in injury time.
After the tribulations endured in the group stage last season, Sir Alex Ferguson will be please with six points from two games, but the unconvincing manner of the victory is likely to only continue his concerns.
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