Van Persie and Rooney combine to rescue Manchester United

Van Persie Champions League

Man U go a goal down against CFR Cluj, but their new dynamic duo saves the day

BY Bill Mann LAST UPDATED AT 08:21 ON Wed 3 Oct 2012

CFR Cluj 1 Manchester United 2. Robin van Persie made it seven goals in eight appearances for United as they came from behind to triumph in Transylvania. The Dutch striker scored both his side’s goals as he and Wayne Rooney appeared together in the starting XI for the first time since his summer switch from Arsenal.

“I am on the way to settling in well," said Van Persie afterwards. "It is not only about goals but I want to make more assists. I am on a good run but I would like to do better."

As they did last season for Arsenal, Van Persie’s goals are digging United out of holes of their own making. Their much maligned defence was once more at fault when the Romanian champions took the lead on 14 minutes.

Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans both looked vulnerable at the back, and Patrice Evra is showing signs that age is catching up with him. The Frenchman’s lack of pace was ruthlessly exposed by Modou Sougo, and it was his run down the right that led to the opening goal. Having left Evra for dead, Sougo whipped in a low cross that eluded Evans and was buried by Pantelis Kapetanos. It was the sixth time in seven matches this season that United have conceded the first goal of the game.

But then disaster for Cluj. Ten minutes after the goal, Sougo pulled a hamstring and the Senegal winger was off. With him went the home side’s chances of victory. With their tormentor in chief gone, United started to settle and Van Persie and Rooney combined on the half hour mark to bring them level. Rooney’s free kick from wide out on the left was met by the head of Van Persie and the ball beat Mario Felgueiras in the Romanian goal.

Four minutes after the break the pair were at it again. This time Van Persie ran on to Rooney’s deft lofted pass and flicked the ball past the onrushing Felgueiras and into the net.

The finish, like the final result, ensured Alex Ferguson left Transylvania a happy man. "I thought he hit it too far in front of Robin but his speed then to get to the ball and deftness of touch were incredible,” the United manager said later.

Asked if he was pleased with the debut of the Van Persie and Rooney double act, he replied: “Everyone thought it was going to be a miracle combination. The best thing about them is they can both turn a game. The strength of our squad is in attacking positions.”

United’s next opponents in Group H are Braga of Portugal on 23 October. They beat Galatasaray 2-0 in Turkey last night, a victory that moves them level on three points with CLR. United lead the group with six points but Ferguson knows there is work to be done before they are assured of qualification. “We have to make sure we are more solid,” he said when asked about conceding an early goal. “It is something that we have to stop because we cannot afford to keep letting teams get a head start on us especially in the Champions League. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.