Man United must 'get their act together' after Cluj defeat
United concede yet again, and why was Rooney playing in second-string side?
MANCHESTER UNITED ended the group-stages of the Champions League campaign with a lacklustre defeat to Romanian minnows Cluj as manager Alex Ferguson issued a warning to his senior players ahead of the crucial Manchester derby this weekend.
Ferguson fielded a second-string side at Old Trafford, secure in the knowledge that the result was did not matter as United had already progressed as group winners, but the defeat would not have pleased the manager.
Although Cluj's second-half winner, scored by Luis Alberto from 25 yards, was described as a "wonder goal" by Ferguson it was the 33rd goal that United have conceded this term and it was the 15th time that United have gone behind in 23 games this season.
It also consigned United to only their second-ever home defeat in a Champions League group game and it was the first time in 66 games that United have failed to score at Old Trafford.
To make matters worse, one of the players in line for a run out against Manchester City at the weekend, Tom Cleverley, limped off with a calf problem.
Afterwards, Ferguson was left bemoaning the state of his defence and although he tried to make light of the loss he made it clear he wanted to see an improvement. "The experienced players that have been playing have got to get their act together, it’s as simple as that," he said.
He also warned that if his back four don't improve on Sunday, United could face a repeat of the 6-1 thrashing they endured at the Etihad last season.
"The immediate concern may be City but Real Madrid, AC Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk, Porto, Valencia or Celtic, any of whom United could be paired with when the draw for the Champions League round of 16 is made... will all hope that Ferguson’s team are still struggling defensively come February," added The Times.
The Guardian agreed and said that while "not much should be read into this defeat" it added: "Ferguson knows the comical defending from his first choice players that is causing too many scares could be costly against City."
And the Times believes there was one selection that could have been telling. Wayne Rooney was the only player who played against Reading last weekend to make the team. He was picked alongside a number of fringe players and played on the right of a three-man front line.
"It is hard to know whether Rooney is unhappy with Ferguson’s treatment of him at the moment or just frustrated at his form, but he has the demeanour of a man with things on his mind," noted the paper.