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Rooney fails to fire United as CFR Cluj claim victory

Thursday, 6 December 2012 - 11:39am IST | Place: Old Trafford | Agency: The Daily Telegraph

With Manchester City next up this Sunday, a dead-rubber against the Romanian champions was hardly going to spark one of Old Trafford's glory nights.

It was a goal worthy of marking Sir Alex Ferguson's 200th Champions League fixture as Manchester United manager, but he would have preferred it to have secured a victory rather his team's sixth defeat of the season.

Luis Alberto's 56th minute strike, an unstoppable effort from 30 yards, was enough for CFR Cluj to add their name to the roll call of teams to have tasted a European victory at Old Trafford, but with United having already claimed their place in the knock-out stages, losing on Ferguson's milestone night barely caused a ripple.

With Manchester City next up this Sunday, a dead-rubber against the Romanian champions was hardly going to spark one of Old Trafford's glory nights.

Ferguson had insisted in his programme notes that, despite being assured of top spot in Group H, United's weakened team would pull out all the stops against the Romanian champions to ensure that their battle with Galatasaray for second place was made as difficult as possible.

In truth, United's starting eleven was much stronger than many would have expected considering that the more testing encounter with Manchester City is looming on Sunday. Wayne Rooney, for one, would perhaps have hoped to join his senior team-mates in the directors' box, resting up ahead of the trip to the Etihad Stadium, but Ferguson's increasingly regular comments about the 27 year-old's fitness suggest that he is not as sharp as he needs to be at this stage of the campaign.

Rooney made a quiet start, struggling to influence the game from his position on the right of United's attacking three, but he ended the first-half having at least forced a save from Cluj goalkeeper Mario Felgueiras.

With Galatasaray trailing at half-time in Braga, the incentive was there for Cluj to push forward in search of the goal that would edge them into the knock-out stages ahead of the Turkish champions.

United had no such motivation, though, and their insipid performance deteriorated, with players perhaps wary of over-exerting themselves in the build-up to Sunday's derby. And with Tom Cleverley limping out of the game just before half-time, to be replaced by Paul Scholes, United lost the zip and purpose in the attacking third to sustain their forward momentum.

So when Cluj took the lead, it was neither a surprise nor undeserved. With Scholes losing the ball in midfield, Cluj picked up the loose ball before Luis Alberto was freed in the centre-circle.

The Brazilian then unleashed a right-foot shot from 30 yards which left De Gea helpless. For the fifth time in six Champions League games this season, United had fallen behind, but on this occasion it really did not matter. Galatasaray's second-half comeback in Braga meant it was just as meaningless for Cluj.

Manchester United (4-3-3): De Gea; Jones, Wootton, Smalling, Buttner; Powell (Macheda 73), Cleverley (Scholes 45), Giggs (Fletcher 85); Rooney, Hernandez, Welbeck.

Subs: Lindegaard (g), Rafael, Young, Vermijl. Booked: Scholes.

CFR Cluj (4-4-2): Felgueiras; Ivo Pinto; Cadu, Piccolo, Rada; Muresan, Luis Alberto, Rui Pedro (Aguirregaray 71), Camora; Sougou (Kapetanos 90), Bastos (Maftei 78).

Subs: Stancioio (g), Sepsi, Bjelanovic, Godemeche.

Booked: Cadu, Felgueiras.

Referee: D Orsato (Italy).

The Daily Telegraph

052203 GMT Dec12


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