By Gabriel Tan
Following their 3-2 defeat to Tottenham in the Barclays Premier League on Saturday, United understandably got off to a nervy start in Transylvania on Tuesday night and fell behind in the 14th minute, after poor defending allowed Pantelis Kapetanos to fire home from just inside the area.
Nonetheless, Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to start with Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie for the first time ever paid off 15 minutes later when the latter met a cross from his strike partner to equalise for his side, although there was an element of luck involved after his misguided header looped over Mario Felgueiras and into the back of the net.
Four minutes after the break, the Dutchman netted his second to hand United all three points although this time it was a moment of pure genius. Latching onto an over-the-top delivery by Rooney, Van Persie anticipated the keeper to come off his line and intelligently flicked a ball over the onrushing Felgueiras and into the unguarded goal.
While he wasn't exactly at fault for either of United's goals, Felgueiras didn't instil much confidence in his backline as he often looked hesitant when coming out to claim crosses.
On the other hand, Cluj captain Cadu deserves plenty of credit for an authoritative display, and will be disappointed his partner Ionut Rada failed to play his part.
Portuguese right-back Ivo Pinto had an outstanding game and was always ready to put in a tough challenge on his opponent, as Patrice Evra found the hard way. Pinto's counterpart on the opposite flank, Laszlo Sepsi, had a fairly average outing and while he showed plenty of endeavour in getting forward, he wasted a number of good chances with poor deliveries into the visitor's box.
Felgueiras - 6.5 | Ivo Pinto - 7.5 | Cadu - 8 | Rada - 6.5 | Sepsi - 7
While he failed to last the full 90 minutes, Aguirregaray was undoubtedly one of his side's best players and was even reminiscent of a certain Andrea Pirlo with the way he sat back and dictated the tempo for the Romanian outfit.
On the right wing, Senegal international Modou Songou was impressive until he limped off in the 24th minute and laid on an assist for Kapetanos, while left-winger Camora struggled to impose himself on the game despite getting plenty of the ball.
However, centre-midfielder Gabriel Muresan had a poor outing as he spent most of the game chasing shadows, exposing his defence in the process.
Sougou (off 24') - 7.5 | Aguirregaray (off 80') - 8 | Muresan - 5 | Camora - 6
Kapetanos deserves plenty of credit for his well-taken goal early on and he gave Jonny Evans a real headache with his off-the-ball movement, although his influence eventually waned, leading to his replacement shortly after the hour mark.
Strike partner Rafael Bastos, who was deployed in a withdrawn role, did reasonably well to hold up the ball in Cluj's attacking third but will be disappointed he failed to get into more goalscoring positions. It was however his glorious cross-field pass picking out Sougou that led to the hosts' opener.
Rafael Bastos - 7 | Kapetanos (off 61') - 7.5
While the starting XI that Cluj coach Ioan And one fielded gave United posed plenty of problems to their opponents, the quality he had on the bench left little to be desired.
The moment Luis Alberto came on for Sougou, Evra had a significantly-easier outing, while Croatian striker Sasa Bjelanovic hardly got a sniff off the ball.
Luis Alberto (on 24') - 6 | Bjelanovic (on 61') - 6 | Nicoara (on 80') - N/A
With Ferguson opting to rotate his goalkeepers this season, David de Gea will have to impress whenever he gets a chance to, but he did just that on Tuesday evening, producing a couple of fine saves to deny Cadu and Bastos and keep United's lead intact.
Rafael showed plenty of energy bombing down the right, especially given the visitors were playing without orthodox wingers, while Rio Ferdinand's experience was telling as he mopped up any messes in United's defensive third.
Evra was at fault for Cluj's goal as he allowed Sougou to slip in behind him, but he acquitted himself by putting the hosts on the back foot with a number of bursts down the flank, but Jonny Evans's error-prone nature of two seasons ago reared its ugly head once again as he constantly lost his direct opponent.
De Gea - 7.5 | Rafael - 7 | Ferdinand - 8 | Evans (off 79') - 5.5 | Evra - 6.5
Darren Fletcher's return from ulcerative colitis has been nothing short of a feel-good story, but it remains to be seen if he will ever get back to his best. While he retains the same desire to win the ball and shield his defence, he seems to have lost that extra bit of pace and strength, and some of his passes went straight to Cluj players.
Anderson, on the other hand, was too strong and fast for his opponents, yet decided to go for the killer pass too often and ended up giving the ball straight back to the hosts.
Cleverley was the one bright light in the United midfield on Tuesday, and while he still has plenty to learn, it's clear why he's already been drafted into the England squad after impressing with his incisive distribution and creativity.
Fletcher - 6.5 | Anderson - 6 | Cleverley - 7
Deployed in the role of playmaker, Rooney showed just why he can be relied on to do a job wherever he plays on the field. The 26-year-old was always looking to carve open the Cluj defence, something he did on two occasions when he laid on assists for Van Persie.
And while there was an element of luck involved in United's equaliser, after the Dutchman's failure to connect cleanly with his header inadvertently sent the ball looping over a hapless Felgueiras, his second was pure skill as he delicately flicked the ball over the opposition keeper and into the far corner.
As long as Rooney and Van Persie maintain their level of performance, Hernandez will have to bide his time on the bench as he is simply too one-dimensional, as his performance on Tuesday proved. Apart from one incisive pass that led to a shooting chance for Van Persie, the Mexican struggles to contribute outside the box and, when marked tightly, struggles to get into the game.
Rooney - 7.5 | Van Persie - 8 | Hernandez - 6
Both United substitutes didn't have much time to make an impact given Ferguson was looking to wind down the clock and hold on to all three points.
Wootton (on 79') - N/A | Welbeck (on 83') - N/A