CFR Cluj vs. Manchester United: Looking for Blood in Transylvania

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CFR Cluj vs. Manchester United: Looking for Blood in Transylvania
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Crisis, what crisis? People saying Manchester United haven't played well for three years. Growing references to last season's ECL failure. Why should that happen again?

Then, Cluj already have a win under their belt, so they're now the team to fear. The truth is that United now have their destiny in their own hands. And that just about sums up the season so far.

Sadly, this does seem now likely to be Sir Alex Ferguson's last year as manager. There have been suggestions that he would like to win both the Premier League and the Champions League. I suspect the latter is more important.

He has suggested that Chelsea are the main threat in the Premier League and that's how it looks so far. Maybe some people are already wading into the Blues for the title, with their early lead.

Let's be more sanguine about things. 

Chelsea have had a much easier fixture list, with the exception of Arsenal; and were able to create early momentum.

Arsenal and United are still integrating new players. City have defensive problems. Liverpool and Spurs are learning new styles of play; and Newcastle are suffering from second season syndrome.

And most important as I've said before, the effect of all the money that has come into the EPL via the Sky contract (and its imminent big boost) is that every team has been able to improve the quality of their squad. So any team can beat any other with a bit of fortune.

Putting Saturday in Perspective

Which brings me to Saturday's match against Tottenham.

I was away at the weekend and only had a chance to watch the entire match on MUTV today, twice. From the reports I had read and heard, United were awful.

Of course there was a sense of shock descending over Old Trafford. No home match lost in 2012; and no defeat by Spurs since 1989.

And yes United were disappointing in the first half. Yet again. But Spurs were lucky. 

Vertonghen's goal took a massive deflection. Two minutes gone, already a goal down, shocker. Bale's goal was class and once again the finger can be pointed at Nani.

But after 94 minutes I was left feeling very optimistic. Yes United were poor in the first half but they were electric in the second. And the difference was Wayne Rooney. Back. Fit. Sharp. Now we can get started.

But Sir Alex cannot continue to blame his players, or somewhat ludicrously the referee for not playing a minute more injury time.

No. He needs to take a long hard look in the mirror and learn from Jose Mourinho. Time to say "it was my fault, not the players", Sir Alex.

United have an excellent First Team Coach in Rene Meulensteen, but he is a technical coach. United desperately need to do what Arsenal have just done and appoint a Steve Bould to sort the defence out.

It's not just the back four, it's the entire team. You defend from the front. In the past United have done that through the maxim "attack is the best form of defence". That was exactly true in the second half, to the extent that Sir Alex was able to replace Ferdinand with Chicharito. 

Spurs were under the cosh for 35 minutes and could hardly get out. Even allowing for bias, but with better penalty decisions and a modicum of luck, United could have won 6-3.

The big problem is that Sir Alex seems trapped in the headlights of a car. He seems reluctant to take the risk of blooding his burgeoning young talent and keeps turning to the Old Age Pensioners.

That backfired badly on Saturday and must change tomorrow night.

In fact at the moment he would be better playing young, fit fast players in the big matches and Giggs and Scholes in the lesser ones.

It does seem somewhat ironic that Sir Alex has pointed to Chelsea's old players in the past, but seems now compelled to put his faith in a 39 and 38 year old...

Anyhow, lets look at the key considerations for that match.

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