Despite the win they went behind early on and there are still some worrying signs in the United defence. Here are five existing problems that need to be rectified.
Ultimately the formation that Sir Alex Ferguson chose to play in the match against Cluj worked because the team won. However, from a tactical stand point it was not the best system for a leaky defence. United were very narrow because they had to compete with the packed midfield of the home side. This meant that the full backs had to push forward to provide the width leaving Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand exposed. This cannot continue as the pair clearly need extra protection at the moment.
The space between the individuals in the United defence was far too big. Patrice Evra was caught out for the first goal of the game because Cluj were able to whip the ball out wide where Evra couldn’t come back and cover or track the run of the winger. The resulting cross to a Cluj attacker meant United were 1-0 down before the game had even started.
Position on the Pitch
United were guilty of dropping way too deep at times in the match against Cluj. The Cluj goal gave David De Gea absolutely no chance of saving it because he had no time to react from the moment the ball was crossed in, hit the attackers foot and then hit the back of the net. Rio Ferdinand has to play a much better role in terms of keeping the United defence away from the goalkeeper. If they can do this successfully over the next few games then they will concede fewer goals.
Midfield and the Defence
Usually United are very good when it comes to keeping the space between the midfield and the defence very small, almost non-existent. Against Cluj there were times when the defence was massively exposed and would have been exploited by a better team. The reason for this is that the midfield was on the attack for the majority of the game as United dominated possession. The side needed to do more in terms of sprinting back to cover the defence but this is something which can be easily rectified.
This is no fault of the club and no fault of the defence but United are crying out for the return of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Nemanja Vidic. Vidic will be key in keeping the back four tight and secure and in a straight line. Smalling is a competent defender and the quickest of the bunch so he would play a massive role in covering when others are out of position. Phil Jones is the most versatile defender United have at their disposal and having him back would provide some relief for Rafael at right back.