Preview – FC Cluj vs Manchester United

By at 12:40 pm 01/10/2012

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It’s unbelievable how one game can change the entire landscape of a team. At 5:29pm on Saturday, Manchester United were the favourites for the title, in form and looking unstoppable. A comfortable win against Tottenham was expected by the majority of fans, including myself. One thing is for sure – nobody expected a loss. That’s exactly what happened, however.

The first half performance was arguably their worst in years and we were made to pay for it. Tottenham are the first team so far this season that have exposed United’s serious lack of pace and power in the middle of the park.

It’s been acknowledged among fans for over a year now, to no avail. Our aging first choice pairing of Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick is not what it once was, yet Sir Alex continues to select them together. There are positives to take out of what was, for the most part, a thoroughly depressing evening.

Wayne Rooney got more minutes under his belt and with them gave us a teaser of what could be a special partnership with Robin van Persie up front. Their link-up play resulted in several goalscoring opportunities and looks like it could fire United to the summit again. Shinji Kagawa and Nani both impressed, albeit only in the second half. So, where do we go from here?

A midweek trip to Romania is not what the doctor ordered, that’s for sure. Manchester United‘s European quest continues on Tuesday night as we take on CFR Cluj at the Stadional Gruia. Following their unconvincing opening game against Galatasaray at Old Trafford, Sir Alex will be sure to field his strongest possible side.

The relatively unknown Romanian champions are in shaky form, winning six of their last ten league games. It will be a tough test, though, as it always is away in Europe. Incredibly, it will be United’s first away tie in Europe since December 2011, when we were knocked out in the group stages by FC Basel.

Sir Alex will certainly be looking for a reaction from his side following the humiliation of Saturday and it’s up to the players to make sure that he gets it. With Wayne Rooney looking 100% fit once again, he will likely start his first Champions League game of the season. This will leave many fans wondering where Shinji Kagawa plays.

For me, one of most enjoyable matches of the season so far in terms of entertainment value was the League Cup tie against Newcastle. It’s no coincidence that we played three central midfielders that day, all of whom worked their socks off and stopped us from getting overrun from the likes of Tiote. I feel that a midfield three of Anderson, Cleverley and Kagawa just ahead of them could work wonders for United.

It’d give us the energy and commitment that we lack at the moment from Anderson and Cleverley, whilst maintaining the creativity from Kagawa. With Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans getting through the Spurs game unscathed, it’s almost guaranteed that those two will start again at centre back.

Onto my prediction for the game. It’s safe to say that United are in dire need of a convincing performance right now, particularly in Europe. Whether we’ll get it or not is a different matter entirely. Unknown they may be, but they are still Romanian champions and have earned their place in this competition. European away ties are always tough, but a win is expected nonetheless. A convincing win is not, at least not by me anyway. I’m therefore going to go for a 2-1 win to United, with goals from Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.

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