Tag Cluj

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Preview: United v CFR Cluj

December 5, 2012 Tags: , Matches 64 comments

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

United: WLLWWW

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


Preview: CFR 1907 Cluj v United

October 1, 2012 Tags: , Matches 60 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson left a rash of players at home as Manchester United chase a second win in this season’s Champions League group stage. Fresh from defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend, and a drab victory over Galatasary on match-day one, Ferguson flew with a stripped-down squad to Romania’s third largest city on Tuesday. Victory over CFR 1907 Cluj will bring the Reds to within four points of likely qualification for the knock-out stages of this season’s competition.

It promises to be a testing fixture against the Romanian champions, who knocked out FC Basel in the Champions League preliminary round this season. Basel’s victory over United in Switzerland last season consigned the Reds to the Europa League for the first time since 2005.

Ferguson will be without midfielders Antonio Valencia, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick, together with a trio of defenders for the tie at the atmospheric Stadionul Dr. Constantin Rădulescu. Valencia is out with a bruised ankle, while Giggs and Carrick are each suffering from a virus.

Scholes has been rested after playing 90 minutes against Spurs on Saturday and should return for United’s Premier League trip to Newcastle United next weekend.

However, Ferguson will at least be able to field two fit centre-halves after Jonny Evans recovered from a dead leg sustained against Spurs at the weekend. The Northern Irishman will partner Rio Ferdinand in central defence, with captain Nemanja Vidić, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones all on the sidelines.

Despite – or perhaps because of – the threadbare squad Ferguson says United will show The Railwaymen every respect on Tuesday night. United beat compatriots Oțelul Galați home and away last season.

“They’ve beaten Basel twice and Basel knocked us out so we need to give them every respect,” said Ferguson of Tuesday’s opponents.

“CFR are a team who defend quickly and get plenty of bodies behind the ball. Their main strength is the counterattack, as they showed against Braga. Counterattacking is very important in European football these days. Their strongest point is they have got three points. They play us tomorrow and then two games against Galatasaray. They need seven more points from five games and they will qualify.”

CFR 1907 Cluj v Manchester United, Champions League, 2 October 2012Ferguson kept his squad back at Carrington a day longer than is usual prior to Champions League fixtures after the Reds lost 3-2 at home to Spurs at the weekend. United’s performance in the first half of the reverse was arguably the worst of the campaign to date. United rallied in the second period, but failed to turn the match around for a second Premier League defeat of the season.

Indeed, in conceding three against Andre Villas-Boas’ north Londoners United has now shipped twice or more for the third time this season. It is a defensive record that will again be tested in Cluj-Napoca – the unofficial capital of Transylvania.

“We made the decision to train at home because most of the time when you train abroad you can’t do anything because everyone is watching,” added Sir Alex.

“Training at Carrington this morning allowed us to do things around picking the team and tactics. Our second half against Spurs on Saturday was probably our best performance of the season, but you have to be concerned with the way we lost the goals. We were well off the pace of the game.”

Ferguson is likely to recall Wayne Rooney for the clash, with the Scouser central to a dominant attacking performance in the second period against Tottenham. The fixture may also offer Darren Fletcher a second start of the campaign, especially given Ferguson’s need to juggle limited resources in central midfield. At least one of Tom Cleverley and Anderson should also feature.

Meanwhile, Cluj coach Ioan Andone has Vasile Maftei available after the defender served a one-game suspension on match-day one. However, Ciprian Deac, Adam Vass, Bakary Sare, and Ronny all miss out with injury.

Much traveled Andone is with his 13th club as a manager in a career that has taken the former international defender from Romania, to Saudi Arabia, Bulgaria and Cyprus. Once considered one of Romania’s best defenders, Andone played in Netherlands and Spain before taking up coaching as a 33-year-old.

In seven seasons as a player with Dinamo, Andone won two league titles and three Romanian Cups as well as reaching the European Cup Winners’ Cup semi-finals. Andone joined CFR for a second spell as manager in April 2012, claiming the league title a month later.

“I met United when I was coach of Dinamo Bucureşti, but that was two different teams, two different scenarios,” said Andone of the 2004 preliminary round fixture that United won 5-1 on aggregate.

“Now CFR have a few players with experience in the Champions League, and we have the whole of Romania behind us. I hope our enthusiasm will make a difference. If we manage to score, we will have a chance. I don’t think you can speak about fear against United.”

Indeed, after Galatasaray ran United so close at Old Trafford on match-day one there should be little to fear from Ferguson’s men, who have failed to excel in Europe’s premier competition for more than a year.

Yet, Cluj has shown mixed form in the campaign to date, beating Basel twice in the preliminary round and then SC Braga on match-day one, but slipping to sixth in Liga I Bergenbier. Cluj beat Gloria Bistriţa 5-1 on Saturday, but has suffered two domestic defeats to date this season.

Match Details
CFR 1907 Cluj v Manchester United – Champions League, Stadionul Dr. Constantin Rădulescu – Wednesday 2 October 2012, 7.45pm

Possible Teams
Cluj (4-5-1): Felguerias; Pinto, Cadu, Rada, Sepsi; Mureşan, Alberto, Sougou, Bastos, Camora; Kapetanos. Subs from: Mincă, Maftei, Alberto, Sepsi, Bjelanović, Piccolo, Valente, Godemèche, Pedro, Aguirregaray, Nicoară, Buş, Sougou

United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Fletcher, Cleverley; Nani, Rooney, Kagawa; Van Persie. Subs from: Lindegaard, Büttner, Wootton, Keane, Powell, Anderson, Macheda, Welbeck, Hernández.

Officials (all Spain)
Referee: Alberto Undiano Mallenco
Assistant referees: Roberto Díaz Pérez del Palomar, Jesús Calvo Guadamuro
Additional assistant referees: Carlos Gómez, Javier Estrada Fernandez

United: WWWWWL

This is the first meeting between the sides