Preview: United v CFR Cluj



Unlike a certain parrot, this match isn’t pining; it’s dead. Very dead. Manchester United’s qualification for the knock-out stages was confirmed after victory on the road against Braga nearly a month ago. Meanwhile, defeat to Galatasaray in matchday five did little but confirm that manager Sir Alex Ferguson is unlikely to deploy many of his major weapons for Wednesday’s match against CFR Cluj. Not with a derby against Manchester City at Eastlands to come on Sunday.

The prospect of an under-strength United side at Old Trafford both excites and causes concern. Certainly, those fringe and young United players that feature against the Romanian champions will benefit for the time and experience.

Yet, with the title race kicking off in earnest on Sunday momentum remains an ephemeral thing; one that United rarely seems to have gain a firm hold on this season.

Last weekend’s fixture with Reading is a case in point. After a rare clean sheet achieved at home to West Ham United the previous Wednesday, Ferguson’s side shipped three in Berkshire amid some of the most haphazard defending the Scot has overseen during 26 years in charge at Old Trafford. There has been much talk of United’s defensive performances this season, but none match the chaos of the first half at Madjeski.

“We’re getting punished when balls go into the box, but we should be defending far better,” admitted Ferguson on Tuesday.

“It’s a worry, a concern – if we perform like that on Sunday, God knows what’ll happen to us. You only have to look at our goals against: we’ve lost 32 goals so far this season. I can’t remember us ever conceding so many goals before Christmas.”

Still, Ferguson should be able to field a strong back-four, with both Chris Smalling and Phil Jones likely to start as the pair seeks sharpness after long spells on the sidelines. David De Gea will return in goal after spending five matches on the bench, while United supporters will get another look at Dutch left-back Alexander Büttner.

Manchester United v CFR 1907 Cluj - Champions League, Old Trafford - Wednesday 5 December 2012, 7.45pmWhether changes instigate a modicum of defensive solidity is yet to be determined, although it would be hard to match last weekend for tactical entropy, whatever choices Sir Alex makes.

Yet, for the second game in a row Ferguson’s team will come under scrutiny. After all, both Cluj and Galatasaray could still qualify from Group H. The other side in the group, Braga, was not the beneficiary of Ferguson’s generosity of team selection.

“We’ll rest some players, like we did against Galatasaray,” added the 70-year-old Scot.

“We have to be fair to all the other teams who are trying to get important positions, either in the next stage of the Champions League or the Europa League. In that respect, we’ll send out a team we expect can win, but there will be changes.”

Even with rotation likely Ferguson says that striker Wayne Rooney will start after the 26-year-old scored twice against Reading at the weekend. That momentum thing again it seems. However, captain Nemanja Vidić will not play after the Serbian declared himself unfit to take part.

“Nemanja feels he needs another few days’ training so he won’t be available. He’s not far away. He’s training well now but I think another few days will bring him on better. When Wayne gets interrupted he needs three games to get back. That’s why he’ll definitely play tomorrow. Wayne needs to play a lot of games to get his match-fitness up.”

Vidić was unlikely to take part in Sunday’s derby either way, although the 30-year-old should play before the year is out. Elsewhere, both Darren Fletcher and Tom Cleverley could get minutes, with Javier Hernández and Danny Welbeck also in contention.

Meanwhile, Cluj arrive at Old Trafford seeking an unlikely win that could take the Romanians through to the knock-out stages. Whatever the result in Manchester, CFR is guaranteed European football after Christmas for the first time in the club’s history, with third place secure.

The Romanians parted company with manager Ioan Andone in October after a series of poor domestic results, with Portuguese Paulo Sérgio appointed late in the month. And with a new manager, comes a fresh impetus it seems, with Cluj suffering just one defeat in nine matches since Sérgio’s appointment.

In a varied career, Sergio has managed Vitória Guimarães, Sporting, and Hearts, among others. Indeed the 44-year-old is now into his eighth managerial position in nine years.

“We always prepare by thinking we can take something from the game – this game is no different,” said Sérgio, who left his position as Hearts manager after securing the Scottish Cup last season.

“It’s not important for me what Braga and Galatasaray are doing or what United do. It’s important to me that we focus on what we have to do.

“It would be an amazing achievement [to qualify]. I think that at the moment we should be happy that we’ll at least be in the Europa League. I don’t think any of you would have bet on us before the group stage began.”

In truth after last season’s calamitous campaign few expected United to qualify with such ease either. Topping Group H ensures the Reds avoid Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund, although Ferguson is unlikely to fancy a trip to Milan, Malaga or Real Madrid.

And whatever the result in the dead rubber, the Scot will surely enjoy a clean sheet above all else.

Match Details
Manchester United v CFR 1907 Cluj – Champions League, Old Trafford – Wednesday 5 December 2012, 7.45pm

Possible teams
United (4-4-2): De Gea; Jones, Wootton, Smalling, Buttner; Fletcher, Cleverley, Powell, Giggs; Welbeck, Rooney. Subs from: Lindegaard, Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra, Young, Carrick, Scholes, Hernandez, van Persie, Henríquez.

Cluj (4-3-1): Stăncioiu; Aguirregaray, Maftei, Rada, Sepsi; Vass, Godemèche; Bastos, Celestino, Hora; Bjelanović. Subs from: Kapetanos, Godemèche, Pedro, Maftei, Stăncioiu, Nuno, Valente

Officials (All ITA)
Referee: Daniele Orsato
Assistant referees: Mauro Tonolini, Massimiliano Grilli
Additional assistant referees: Andrea De Marco, Mauro Bergonzi

Form
United: WLLWWW
Cluj: WWWWWD

Head to Head
Last 10: United 1, Cluj 0, Draw 0
Overall: United 1, Cluj 0, Draw 0

Prediction
1-0

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  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    absolutely no reason for rooney to play, just play the young cunts and the old shitehouses

  • bman

    Yeah that side looks about right, but Hernandez instead of Rooney, who shouldn’t even be in the squad. Would be nice to bring on our new lad Henriquez in the second half, I’ve a good feeling about him.

    I will be disappointed if Powell doesn’t start, this is exactly the type of dead rubber game that we should be using to give him a proper run-out. We lost Pogba, who now looks like exactly the player we need in midfield, because we didn’t give young lads enough opportunities. Or maybe he was just a mercenary little shit.

  • RobDiablo

    “tactical entropy” Nice one, Ed.

    if Paulo Sérgio’s side beat United on Wednesday, he might find himself managing the visitors at The Stadium of Light on Saturday.

  • marlon

    Hernandez will start instead of Fletch. We’ll play Giggs deep instead. Also can’t see Wootton at CB if Jones is playing.

  • Minus The Bear

    Fergie’s confirmed rooney is going to play, wants to keep his fitness up.

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    absolutely no reason for rooney to play, just play the young cunts and the old shitehouses

    One thing I agree with Ferguson about… Rooney needs to play as much as he can take… the rest need a rest, but Rooney needs to play.

  • jinomoja

    Someone should have a nice long talk with Giggs about the joys of retirement.
    I’d love to see some of our highly rated youngsters in action.

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    youll see plenty of em in action

    and none when it matters against city

  • TC

    My team for this match would be a slightly experimental/theoretical one:

    De Gea
    Smalling Jones Wooton Buttner
    Rafael Cleverly Powell Giggs
    Rooney Welbeck

    Subs: Lindergaard, Evans, Fletcher, Macheda, Hernandez, Young and Carrick

    De Gea needs some game time before the derby (assuming lindergaard gets dropped after the debacle against reading)
    Smalling and Jones are still returning from injury so makes sense to give them game time.
    Rooney needs to keep his fitness up.
    Welbeck and Cleverly haven’t been as involved as of late/have been played out of position and so could do with a chance to stake their claim to their positions.
    Giggs for his experience and game time.
    Rafael gives us some attacking presence down the right with the defensive capabilities of smalling still there.
    Great chance for Powell to put his mark on the team.
    More experience for Wooton and chance for Buttner to prove he’s not here to sit and pick his nose as it were.

  • Denton Davey

    Start Scholes/Giggs so that they won’t start on Sunday.

  • Violent Banana

    Giggs starts; effectively ruling him out of Sunday’s game. But so does Cleverley and Scholes on the bench…

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    scholes carrick and fletcher not playing

    ffs

  • bman

    I’m very happy about Powell starting.

  • Violent Banana

    I think it’ll be Carrick and Scholes on Sunday Unc, not sure about Fletcher – we may play Rooney in midfield with two wide players if they’re fit

  • Violent Banana

    Don’t understand why Cleverley is seemingly being overlooked for Sunday; he’s the only dynamic CM we have fit

  • sidney

    Welbeck’s first touch is absolutely class sometimes

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    no word about rooney again playing out of position, id rather have him as fucking left winger or lone striker than this right wing shite, is he backup for valencia now as well as our being our best midfielder striker and left winger

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Cleverly is shit in front of goal.

  • bman

    I’m not able to watch it at the moment — what sort of formation are we playing? Is it Rooney and Giggs on the wings and Hernandez and Welbeck up top?

  • Violent Banana

    Powell on the left, Rooney on the right; Giggs and Cleverley in CM

  • sidney

    Phil Jones having a bit of a mare

    He just fell over himself trying to turn… talk about a lump

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    its another fuckwit mish mash side with rooney as ever picking up the slack

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    ooooooooooooo what a delicious chip from Rooney… would have been a beauty.

  • sidney

    That’s better, unlucky not to score

    Smalling should bury that

  • sidney

    Is Cleverley injured?

    Surely now Scholes won’t play at Wastelands

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    superb decision to play him in this meaningless game

    rooney next

  • bman

    There has to be something that causes us to have so many injuries, season after season.

  • sidney

    If Clev is fucked for City then the midfield will be a real horrorshow

  • Minus The Bear

    The optimisim for Cleverley getting anywhere near the pitch on sunday had he not been injured is interesting.

    We are going to have a midfield like a table football side, static and fucked if the ball is in front or behind them.

  • jinomoja

    Seems like we won’t have the option of youth in our mid at city. I would go for 3man mid with scholes fletcher & carrick, which sucks coz it’s quite narrow and may leave rafael and evra exposed

  • sidney

    Don’t let Buttner take the freekicks, he’s an idiot

  • sidney

    Class play from Scholes on the edge of the area

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    shocker

  • Violent Banana

    What a goal. Terrible from Scholes.

  • Violent Banana

    Juventus have scored!

  • brianofnazareth

    Rooney on the wing… FFS

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    cant believe im watching scholes and giggs in a two man midfield together, in 2012

  • http://www.newhallmedialtd.com Calvino

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    cant believe im watching scholes and giggs in a two man midfield together, in 2012

    There are idiots who still swear by these totally over the hill footballers. Not one redeeming feature. They standstill and give the ball away more than ever before while offering NO defensive cover whatsoever.

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    usual completely pointless macheda left wing shift

  • han

    thank fuck there is nowt resting on this game
    except pride that is
    but then we have a bunch of prima donna, mercenery, indifferent tossers donning the red tartan tops these days so why would they give a shit?

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Ha… the Renties winning 6-1… but still facing elimination… Alf likes this very much.

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    experience earnt us this loss

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    when youve got no wingers and four strikers on the pitch the best way to go about scoring is crossing it endlessly to no one in particular,

  • sidney

    Celtic through, well in

  • bman

    We need new players in January, no doubt about that, even if Vida and Kagawa come back into the side and play well.

  • sidney

    That was a waste of time really

    I was interested to see Powell play, but not on the wing FFS

  • han

    need a new fucking club
    oh well, thursday evenings will be less boring now…

  • Violent Banana

    I wouldn’t get worked up by tonight’s result, save it all for Sunday.

    Chelsea winning 6-1 and going into the Europa League is brilliant. And well done Celtic, from what I saw tonight they put a great shift in.

  • madredmonkey

    Utter waste Of time.

  • http://www.newhallmedialtd.com Calvino

    bman said:
    We need new players in January, no doubt about that, even if Vida and Kagawa come back into the side and play well.

    Tonight and most of this season have been results of a manager who looks totally lost or senile. It beggars belief how ONLY he can not see how utterly useless Giggs and Scholes are. Nothing positive from them yet he will find an excuse to play these two. I feel very sorry for the younger players tonight.

  • Bill

    Appalling. Fergie sits in the stands and hands the reigns to Mike no role Phelan. We deserve so much better. Scholes, Giggs and Fletcher should go no later than Fergie. Jones and Rooneys technique is so basic, especially Jones. Cleverley is made of glass. At least Buttner knows how to cross, Powell has potential.

    This game also highlighted how poor our midfield options are. Rubbish.

  • Anantax

    han said:
    need a new fucking club

    oh well, thursday evenings will be less boring now…

    Chelsea fan?

  • han

    SAF’s post match comments remind me of bruce forsyth’s “good game, good game…” bollox.
    wonder what excuses he’s getting ready for sunday?

  • han

    Anantax said:
    Chelsea fan?

    nope
    fc clunj international fan

  • sheesh

    Couldn’t score in a brothel, couldn’t open up Clunge etc etc.

    I expected that performance. Do any optimists still think we’ll beat City?

  • sheesh

    han said:
    SAF’s post match comments remind me of bruce forsyth’s “good game, good game…” bollox.
    wonder what excuses he’s getting ready for sunday?

    Lol

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Calvino said:
    Tonight and most of this season have been results of a manager who looks totally lost or senile. It beggars belief how ONLY he can not see how utterly useless Giggs and Scholes are. Nothing positive from them yet he will find an excuse to play these two. I feel very sorry for the younger players tonight.

    He’s not lost or senile… he’s a stubborn, bloody-minded, delusional arsehole, bent on doing exactly what everyone says he can’t… he’s come to believe in his own legend… thinks he can win by sheer force of his own will… Giggs and Scholes may be too old, but it matters not a jot, because he, Alex Ferguson, has decided to win another title…

    “No matter how bleak it gets, no matter how dark, and grim… follow me lads… I’ll get another whiskey doon me neck, and me nose will light the way”…

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    sheesh said:
    Couldn’t score in a brothel, couldn’t open up Clunge etc etc.

    I expected that performance. Do any optimists still think we’ll beat City?

    I do…

    We’re not playing well… but neither are they… and we’ve got Van PerCie.

  • sheesh

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    I do…

    We’re not playing well… but neither are they… and we’ve got Van PerCie.

    *counts to 10*

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    weve got rooney and persie, rooney will be playing right wing and probably told do all of rafaels defending, persie will be isolated because scholes and fletcher cant run

    city have a defence, and an actual midfield, and a top keeper who wont be on the bench for no particular reason. and a way of playing that isnt just throwing 11 players randomly onto the pitch in a shapeless idealess complacent mess that eventually ends up back as the usual endless stream of crosses to no one

  • sheesh

    Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson: “It was a wonder goal that beat us. We didn’t deserve that, we created some good chances but when you lose a goal like that you can have no complaints. We had a young side out and I felt we did very well at times. The pitch was a bit dead from the frost but I am satisfied we put a good performance in. “We have won the group but we know the likes of Shakhtar, Milan, Porto, all the big names, are in there. We qualified comfortably but the real tournament starts at the end of February. The knockout stages are fantastic. “Tom Cleverley has a calf injury, so we will have to see what he is like. Was it important to rest players ahead of Sunday? Yes absolutely. No doubt about that.”

  • Denton Davey

    jlnomoja @ 9:48: “I would go for 3man mid with scholes fletcher & carrick, which sucks coz it’s quite narrow and may leave rafael and evra exposed”

    I’m OK with Michael Carrick and DarrenFletcherinho but I’d rather see MrJones than the man formerly known as TheGingerNinja.

    Like his compatriot, SirRyanGiggs, Paul Scholes is tearing up his legacy. However, his yellow card was quite a fit of pique. I guess that the guy he assaulted won’t be getting any Xmas cards.

  • Damian Garside

    Could we be heading for the worst derby ever, given both teams’ abject performances last night? A goalless draw: terrible defending and hopeless attacking neutralizing ech other.

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Come on Dude… wake the fuck up…