inside the centre circle. Luis Alberto gleefully seized the initiative, surged forward and despatched a sensational shot that swerved past De Gea before flying in off the right-hand post.
Cluj’s small band of enthusiastic fans, some in white and maroon perm wigs, celebrated wildly as their heroes did much the same on the pitch. Some of the home faithful, meanwhile, could only applaud and perhaps draw comparison with past rockets from David Trezeguet of Monaco or the great Gabriel Batistuta of Fiorentina on this European stage.
The United players, however, just had to get on with the task of trying to wipe out the latest of countless deficits this season. Federico Macheda, a scorer at Southampton for the Reds’ Under 21s on Monday night, became the fourth United striker on the pitch when he replaced Powell. But clearcut chances were few and far between, even if Felgueiras had to parry a free-kick from Giggs, block a cross as Jones.pressed forward from right-back and pluck Rooney’s rising shot out of the air.
Cluj were clinging on to qualification at this point but this valiant effort proved in vain when Galatasaray took the lead against Braga in Portugal. It was a cruel end to the evening for United’s visitors but on this evidence they’ll fare well when they drop into the Europa League. As for the Reds, a better performance and a bigger game surely awaits when the Champions League returns in February.