It was far from thoroughly convincing, but for the most part, it was a somewhat comfortable 2-1 away victory for Manchester United -- despite some nervy moments late -- versus CFR Cluj in a Group H UEFA Champions League group-stage clash. It was the home side that struck first though in the 14th minute on a counterattack when a brilliant Paul Scholes-eque (by either Matias Aguirregaray or Gabriel Muresan -- sorry, not sure which!) diagonal ball was arrowed out wide for Modou Sougou. The Senegalese winger got in behind Patrice Evra and after a clean first touch, he picked out an accurate cross for Pantelis Kapetanos and the Greek striker slipped Jonny Evans to clinically finish the opening goal. Cluj didn't get many more genuine chances for the rest of the opening half and the Romanian side seemed quite content to defend deep and compact with two banks of four.
United controlled possession with their midfield diamond but they found it difficult to probe through the congested middle in the attacking third. Finally though, a breakthrough occurred in the 29th minute when a Wayne Rooney free-kick from out wide left was whipped in for a Robin van Persie flicked-on
header shoulder that beat Cluj goalkeeper Mario Felguerias. For the remaninder of the first-half, United controlled the game but they couldn't gain a lead prior to half-time. United started the second-half brightly and they took the lead in the 49th minute when Wayne Rooney brilliantly played a cross over the top from the right flank for van Persie in the box -- the Dutchman clinically volleyed the chance with a delicate left-footed touch past Felguerias.
The tempo of the game changed slightly as Cluj had to come out and play a bit more because they were now trailing. United were in control for most of the second-half -- Darren Fletcher did well to shield the back four and retain possession, Tom Cleverley constantly buzzed around the center of the pitch to make himself available so that he could circulate the ball, and Wayne Rooney covered nearly every blade of grass on the pitch and he was fantastic as the playmaker at the tip of the midfield diamond. There were some nervy moments late though as United surely could have done better to see out the game. Fletch and Anderson appeared to tire late and there was no Paul Scholes or Michael Carrick to come on to restore calm with fresh legs. Fortunately though for United, David de Gea was brilliant and he came up with a tremendous save at the death to hold all three points for United.
With Braga's 2-0 defeat of Galatasaray, today's happenings result in United going to the top of Group H with the maximum six points. Cluj and Braga each have three points while Galatasaray sit bottom with zero points. The next European fixture is on October 23 when United host Braga at Old Trafford. We're in fine shape in Europe and let's hope we can improve our domestic standing on Sunday when we travel to Newcastle United for a tricky away tie.