latter’s chip, both with his left hand. But the Cluj keeper and captain should have been beaten when Javier Hernandez kept the attack alive and whipped a cross into the danger zone – Smalling’s reaction to nodding the ball off target said as much.
Sir Alex made his first substitution just before the break, sending on Paul Scholes for Tom Cleverley who had presumably picked up a knock.
Scholes’ challenge early in the second half was to try and unlock a Cluj defence that appeared to be set up for a draw. But appearances can be deceptive – just 11 minutes after the interval, the Romanian side broke out to devastating effect when the Reds lost possession 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