Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Simmering: Manchester United 2 - FC Cluj 1

photo by hlkljgkvia PhotoRee

Q. Did Fergie change his lineup in reaction to the Spurs' debacle this past weekend?

A. Definitely.  He added Wazza to it, starting the striker alongside Robin Van Persie for the first time this season, and throwing Chicharito into the mix for good measure. The Gaffer also inserted Anderson, Fletcher and Cleverley in the middle of the park, replacing the ill Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick, and the resting Paul Scholes. And whether through rotation or not, David De Gea found himself back in the starting XI -- we'll have to wait and see if there are any implications to that decision.

Q. So did the Reds come out like a house afire...?

A. More like a house on a very slow simmer. United held the ball by and large, but that didn't appear overly difficult given the home side's willingness to sit back and play on the counter-attack. By the thirteenth minute, though, things were back to normal: United without a shot on goal and down 1-0, trailing for the sixth time in nine games this season.  Playing in Transylvania, it could be said that United appear to dread the lead the way a vampire dreads garlic.

Q. Did United equalize?

A. Have you been reading this blog the past several weeks?  Of course they did. Taking a page out of Chicharito's play book, Van Persie -- who else? -- drew the score line level near the game's half hour mark.

Q. Did the goal change anything?

A. It definitely boosted the visitors' confidence, as they slowly took a stranglehold on the proceedings.  Whereas Cluj had acres of space on the ball in their early counters, now the pitch was a bit less open. United appeared to work doubly hard to close the home side down and extinguish their offensive threats, particularly down the right hand side of the pitch.

Q. Was there more of the same in the second half?

A. Yup -- more of the same: Robin Van Persie. And Wazza. Or more specifically, Rooney with a searching pass, and Van Persie with an exquisite finish for a 2-1 lead.

Q. And then to continue the theme: More of the same?

A. It depends on what you mean by "more of the same" this time.  If  you're asking if more goals rained in from Van Persie, the answer is no. If instead you intended to ask if United reverted to their default behavior of late, the answer is, worryingly, yes. Instead of taking Cluj by the throat and shaking them about like a rag doll, something familiar slowly crept into the Reds' game: complacency once again reared its ugly head.

Q. Any surprise substitutions toward the end of the game?

A. Yes.  Showing full faith and confidence in his young bench, Sir Alex opted to throw Scott Wooton straight into the deep end of the swimming pool, inserting him in central defense to see out the Champions League match in place of Jonny Evans.

Q. How'd it all work out?

A. Let's just say the plane ride home was a bit more pleasant because of the right hand goal post and leave it at that. At full time, it was Manchester United 2 - FC Cluj 1.  Another narrow European victory means that United have taken control of the group; it's been shaky, but this season United fans have learned to prefer shaky wins to the alternative.  

This is farlieonfootie for October 3.

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