CFR Cluj beat Manchester United but miss out on Champions League last 16
Last Updated: 05/12/12 10:58pm
Luis Alberto: Wonder strike not enough to send Cluj through
CFR Cluj claimed the notable scalp of Manchester United on Wednesday, but a 1-0 victory was not enough to see them into the last 16 of the Champions League.
A wonder strike from Luis Alberto rocketed the Romanian champions towards the knockout stage, but victory for Galatasaray over Braga in the night's other Group H fixture meant Paulo Sergio's side were robbed of a runners-up spot behind Sir Alex Ferguson's Red Devils.
A positive result for Cluj was always on the cards in midweek, with United already assured of progression as group winners and in the enviable position of being able to make sweeping changes to their starting XI with one eye on a crucial Premier League derby date with Manchester City on Sunday.
With there nothing riding on the game for the hosts there were a number of empty seats to be seen inside the Theatre of Dreams, with one of them in the dugout - with Ferguson opting to enjoy the company of his chief executive David Gill in the stands rather than take his usual place on the bench.
The first half offered little for those in attendance to get excited about, with defensive errors offering up the only real opportunities of note.
A flurry of activity midway through the half saw a Nick Powell effort blocked, after Cluj keeper Mario Felgueiras had flapped at a Phil Jones cross, and a heavy touch from Tom Cleverley deny him a clear run on goal.
Sandwiched between those efforts, Scott Wootton put in an important last-ditch block to slam the door in Modou Sougou's face.
As the opening 45 minutes drew to a close, United really should have got their noses in front, but Wayne Rooney saw a clever chip beaten away by Felgueiras and Chris Smalling somehow nodded wide of a gaping target from three yards out - before Cleverley was forced off with an untimely knock.
The second period looked to be following a similar theme to the first until Alberto brought the game screaming to life.
Paul Scholes, on for the unfortunate Cleverley, surrendered possession in uncharacteristic fashion and was made to pay by Alberto as he picked the ball up 25 yards from goal and sent an unstoppable drive past the outstretched hand of David de Gea and in off the post.
Everything was going to plan for the men from Transylvania at that stage, with Galatasaray trailing in Portugal.
The Turkish outfit were, however, to turn their tie on its head, making events in the final 10 minutes at Old Trafford irrelevant - with United prepared to turn their attention towards more important challenges to come and Cluj left to contemplate the consolation prize of a place in the Europa League.
|Manchester United||Team Statistics||CFR Cluj|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|5||Shots on Target||2|
|10||Shots off Target||5|
|60.2||1st Half Poss.||39.8|
|66.7||2nd Half Poss.||33.3|
UEFA Champions League
Wed 5th Dec - Group E
Shak Donetsk0 - 1Juventus
Chelsea6 - 1Nordsjaelland
Wed 5th Dec - Group F
Lille0 - 1Valencia
Bay Munich4 - 1BATE Borisov
Wed 5th Dec - Group G
Barcelona0 - 0Benfica
Celtic2 - 1Spartak Mos
Wed 5th Dec - Group H
Man Utd0 - 1Cluj
Braga1 - 2Galatasaray
UEFA Champions League Group A
UEFA Champions League Group B
UEFA Champions League Group C
|3||Zenit St. Petersburg||3||4|
UEFA Champions League Group D
UEFA Champions League Group E
UEFA Champions League Group F
|1||Paris St Germain||3||7|
UEFA Champions League Group G
UEFA Champions League Group H
Man Utd v CFR Cluj
Man United's slack starts to matches could eventually prove costly, says Sky Sports' Dwight Yorke.
Wayne Rooney will play against CFR Cluj as Sir Alex Ferguson wants the Manchester United striker to keep his fitness up.
Sir Alex Ferguson said he does not expect Nemanja Vidic to return to the Manchester United side for at least a week.