Put Robin van Persie in front of goal and he would explode like a gelatin stick. In Romania, the casualties were reported to be high, after van Persie scored in both halves against CFR Cluj to take his tally to seven goals in six games.
United were let off the hook yet again, after going behind in the opening 20 minutes for the fourth time this season. Robin van Persie performed his usual rescue act to save United from the danger of being flushed down to the Europa League like last season.
Despite Manchester United‘s stuttering league form, they are very much in control of their European campaign. After winning just two group games – against the same opposition - in the Champions League last season, United have already notched up two wins in two games after last night’s 2-1 win against Cluj. Another win should see United through to the Round of 16.
Like a man trying to solve the Rubik’s cube, Sir Alex Ferguson has been regularly tinkering with the formation due to injuries in the squad. However, the formation remains crowned with Robin van Persie playing on top. 4-3-3 was the theme United adopted against a counter-attacking Cluj side. With Nani on the bench and both Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young injured, United played a full 90 minutes without a regular winger.
As a result, United couldn’t stretch the play, and Cluj concentrated their attack on the unprotected fullbacks. Despite the lack of width in United’s game, the midfield was cordoned off and spike strips, laid by the three man midfield, deflated almost every Cluj attack. Darren Fletcher dropped anchor in the center, and he broke up play and pushed the ball forward with exciting regularity.
It was heartwarming to see Fletcher travelling with the squad once again, after an extended lay-off due to a career threatening personal condition. Also starting together for the first time in attack were Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie. This is the combination United fans dreamed of watching every night, after counting their club titles, before going to sleep.
On paper, their names add more flavour to the United side than the ingredients that go into making pistachio and pineapple desert. It is guilty pleasure watching them in action. The first United goal was a looping header by van Persie after Rooney delivered an inch perfect pass from a free kick.
No amount of insulin dose could stop the blood glucose levels from rising after watching van Persie’s second goal. Like a guided-missile seeking its target, Rooney’s lob found van Persie, and he helped the ball into the net with the softest of touches.
Jonny Evans chose the wrong time to get injured, and Rio Ferdinand might be the only regular centre-back available ahead of an away game against Newcastle United, this Sunday. Alex Ferguson cannot cover the hole in the wall, anymore, by hanging a tacky wallpaper that doesn’t stick well.
Manchester United have already played Newcastle earlier last month in a Cup match, and a repeat of the same performance can see United slip to three defeats in just seven league games.