Victory over United not enough for Cluj

Victory over United not enough for Cluj
By Eurosport

06/12/2012 at 05:39Updated 06/12/2012 at 17:57

Champions League Group H, Old Trafford - Manchester United 0 CFR Cluj 1 (Luis Alberto 56).

Luis Alberto struck a sensational winner as CFR Cluj bowed out of the Champions League with a famous 1-0 triumph at an under-strength Manchester United in Group H.

The Brazilian midfielder crashed home his first goal in the competition with a 25-yard screamer on 56 minutes as they were forced to settle for a Europa League spot despite a shock success at Old Trafford.

The Romanians had looked on course to join group winners United in the knockout stage but missed out after Galatasaray came from behind to win in Braga and pip them to second-place courtesy of a better head-to-head record.

United had their chances but Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck and Nick Powell were all thwarted by Mario Felgueiras, who had an inspired evening in the Cluj goal.

The Red Devils came into the contest with one eye on Sunday’s titanic Premier League clash with neighbours Manchester City.

The hosts knew that the result on the final matchday would be academic to their status as group winners and Alex Ferguson inevitably rung the changes.

Wayne Rooney was the only survivor from the victory at Reading but it was still a team packed full of talent and one capable of causing problems for the visitors.

However, the Romanian outfit began brightly and were unlucky not to take the lead on nine minutes. A mistake by Chris Smalling gave Rui Pedro a sight of goal but his shot hit the knees of David de Gea and bounced to safety.

The Portuguese attacker then fed Modou Sougou who looked all set to score until a great block by Scott Wootton saw his effort deflect just wide.

United improved as the half wore on and Cleverley was brilliantly denied by Felgueiras before Powell saw a goalbound shot blocked.

Felgueiras then produced more top drawer saves to keep out Welbeck and Rooney before Smalling somehow put a free header from six yards out past the post.

It would prove to be the best spell of action for the hosts as Cluj came out in the second half and snatched the lead on 56 minutes.

Substitute Paul Scholes lost the ball in midfield, allowing Luis Alberto to pick up possession, race at goal and unleash a wonderful strike that arced into the top corner.

United responded and Phil Jones was superbly denied by Felgueiras, who also kept out Ryan Giggs to cap what must be one of the best performances of his career.

The visitors dropped deeper and deeper as the clock ticked down but despite holding on to secure a memorable night in Romanian football's history, they ultimately bowed out of the Champions League in a blaze of glory.


Mario Felgueiras - CFR Cluj: A stunning display by the Cluj stopper who pulled off a string of magnificent saves to help clinch a famous win for his side on a bitter-sweet night.


MANCHESTER UNITED: De Gea 6, Jones 7, Smalling 6, Buttner 6, Wootton 6, Cleverley 6, Giggs 6, Powell 6, Rooney 6, Hernandez 5, Welbeck 6. Subs: Scholes 6, Fletcher 5, Macheda 5.

CFR CLUJ: Felgueiras 8, Pinto 7, Piccolo 7, Cadu 7, Rada 7, Camora 7, Muresan 7, Bastos 7, Luis Alberto 8, Pedro 7, Sougou 7. Subs: Maftei 6, Aguirregaray 6, Kapetanos 5.