Van Persie brace downs Cluj
Dutch master saves United blushes after hosts take early lead
Last Updated: 03/10/12 7:37am
Robin van Persie's brace saw Manchester United come from behind to beat CFR Cluj 2-1 and maintain their perfect start to their UEFA Champions League Group H campaign.
The Romanian outfit took a 14th minute lead when Pantelis Kapetanos slotted home from Modou Sougou's cross.
But Van Persie drew the Red Devils level just before the half-hour mark when he shouldered in a free-kick from Wayne Rooney, named in the same team as the Dutch ace for the first time.
The summer signing then notched the decisive strike four minutes after the break with a deft finish from Rooney's chip into the box to take his tally to seven for his new club.
The result means back-to-back wins over Braga will take United into the last 16 with two games to spare.
However, Sir Alex Ferguson cannot be entirely happy with this trip to Transylvania, and was left spitting blood as his team fell behind for the sixth time in nine games.
The Scot could not have made his position any clearer either when he delivered his forceful pre-match address last night, "It will be the last".
It was a direct ending to being quizzed about his side's woeful record of conceding the first goal.
But after 14 minutes, staring down at him to his left from an otherwise pitch black sky, there it was again. Cluj 1 Manchester United 0.
And whilst the Romanian champions could congratulate themselves on the effectiveness of the counter-attack Ferguson had primed his side for, from United's point of view it was all rather disappointingly simple.
Rafael Bastos swept a superb pass out wide to Sougou, who exposed Patrice Evra's defensive frailties, then whipped in a low cross which Kapetanos finished in fine style.
For a short while afterwards, the visitors looked nervy and uncertain. Rooney dropped ever deeper in search of possession, which, considering he was starting behind the front two, took him virtually in front of United's defence.
The visitors' good fortune came in the departure of Sougou through an injury on 23 minutes that cost Cluj much of their attacking zest, and within six minutes, United had taken advantage.
"We have a pair of really top players who can finish and change a game."
Sir Alex Ferguson on Rooney and RVP partnership Quotes of the week
Van Persie had already come agonisingly close to levelling when he latched on to an inspired Tom Cleverley lofted pass.
But when Rooney floated over a free-kick from the left, United enjoyed their second slice of luck.
Had Van Persie made a firm contact with his header, Mario Felgueiras might well have saved, instead, the Cluj keeper was committed when the ball looped off Van Persie's shoulder and was helpless to prevent it dropping over him into the net.
It was the former Arsenal man's 19th goal in 49 Champions League appearances. His 20th arrived four minutes after the re-start.
There was no luck involved this time. This time it was pure class. Again Rooney was the provider. On this occasion the delivery came from the right.
Stationed in a central position about eight yards out, Van Persie watched the ball drop, then steered it into the bottom corner with a delicate touch of his left foot.
It was the kind of sublime moment Ferguson was buying when he persuaded the Glazer family to splash out £24million on a player with relatively little resale value in the summer.
The noisy - if respectful - home fans thought they were celebrating an equaliser as they rose to acclaim Cadu's goalbound effort.
But not for the first time in his short United career, David de Gea's athleticism got his team out of trouble as he repelled the Cluj skipper with a magnificent reaction save.
Van Persie came close to completing his second Red Devils hat-trick when he slid in to reach yet another Rooney cross. This time, though, he could not quite get there.
Scott Wootton was introduced for his European debut 11 minutes from time, after which the visitors needed to survive only one scare when De Gea pushed Bastos' diving near-post header behind.
In pure results terms, Ferguson has got exactly what he asked for after last season's group stage debacle.
However, the 70-year-old will be acutely aware he must find a remedy for those bad starts if United are to stand any chance of winning silverware this term.
|CFR Cluj||Team Statistics||Manchester United|
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|3||Shots on Target||6|
|3||Shots off Target||6|
|26.5||1st Half Poss.||73.5|
|24.9||2nd Half Poss.||75.1|
UEFA Champions League
Tue 2nd Oct - Group G
Spartak Mos2 - 3Celtic
Benfica0 - 2Barcelona
Tue 2nd Oct - Group E
Nordsjaelland0 - 4Chelsea
Juventus1 - 1Shak Donetsk
Tue 2nd Oct - Group F
BATE Borisov3 - 1Bay Munich
Valencia2 - 0Lille
Tue 2nd Oct - Group H
Cluj1 - 2Man Utd
Galatasaray0 - 2Braga
UEFA Champions League Group A
UEFA Champions League Group B
UEFA Champions League Group C
|1||Paris St Germain||6||13|
UEFA Champions League Group D
|3||FC Viktoria Plzen||6||3|
UEFA Champions League Group E
|4||FC Steaua Bucuresti||6||3|
UEFA Champions League Group F
UEFA Champions League Group G
|2||Zenit St. Petersburg||6||6|
UEFA Champions League Group H
CFR Cluj v Man Utd
Patrice Evra and Robin van Persie have hailed Wayne Rooney's performance in Manchester United's victory over CFR Cluj.
Wayne Rooney acknowledges that Manchester United cannot afford to keep falling behind in games early on.
Sir Alex Ferguson hailed Robin van Persie's 'fantastic' goal which saw Manchester United beat CFR Cluj in Romania.