Van Persie double is enough to rescue Red Devils

Manchester United were again forced to do it the hard way before Robin van Persie’s double over Cluj extended their winning start to this season’s Champions League with a 2-1 victory.

Named in the same team as Van Persie for the first time, Wayne Rooney created both.

And the winner, four minutes after the break was simply sensational as the 29-year-old took his tally to six for his new club.

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The result means back-to-back wins over Braga will take United into the last 16 with two games to spare.

However, Sir Alex Ferguson cannot be entirely happy with this trip to Transylvania, and was left spitting blood as his team fell behind for the sixth time in nine games.

The Scot could not have made his position any clearer either when he delivered his forceful pre-match address last night, “It will be the last”.

It was a direct ending to being quizzed about his side’s woeful record of conceding the first goal.

But after 14 minutes, staring down at him to his left from an otherwise pitch black sky, there it was again. Cluj 1 Manchester United 0.

And whilst the Romanian champions could congratulate themselves on the effectiveness of the counter-attack Ferguson had primed his side for, from United’s point of view it was all rather disappointingly simple.

Rafael Bastos swept a superb pass out wide to Modou Sougou, who exposed Patrice Evra’s defensive frailties, then whipped in a low cross which Kapetanos finished in fine style.

Rooney dropped ever deeper in search of possession, which, considering he was starting behind the front two, took him virtually in front of United’s defence.

The visitors’ good fortune came in the departure of Sougou through an injury that cost Cluj much of their attacking zest.

And within five minutes, United had taken advantage.

Van Persie had already come agonisingly close to levelling when he latched on to an inspired Tom Cleverley lofted pass.

But when Rooney floated over a free-kick from the left, United enjoyed their second slice of luck.

Had Van Persie made a firm contact with his header, Mario Felgueiras might well have saved.

Instead, the Cluj goalkeeper was committed when the ball looped off Van Persie’s shoulder and was helpless to prevent it dropping over him into the net.

It was the former Arsenal man’s 19th goal in 49 Champions League appearances. His 20th arrived four minutes after the re-start.

There was no luck involved this time. This time it was pure class.

Again Rooney was the provider. On this occasion the delivery came from the right.

Stationed in a central position about eight yards out, Van Persie watched the ball drop, then steered it into the bottom corner with a delicate touch of his left foot.

It was the kind of sublime moment Ferguson was buying when he persuaded the Glazer family to splash out £24m on a player with relatively little resale value.

“I think there are good combinations between all the players in attacking positions,” said a relieved Ferguson afterwards.

“The strength of this squad is in attacking positions.

“If you look at the way they kept going to the end, they’re good crossers of the ball. They kept us under pressure the whole time and kept us on edge.

“I’m really pleased that the possession was really good tonight and apart from their goal I think we defended really well.”

Frank Lampard described Chelsea’s 4-0 victory over Nordsjaelland in Group E as a “great result” but also admitted he was a little concerned before a late flood of goals sealed the win.

Juan Mata put the reigning European champions ahead in the 33rd minute but Chelsea did not manage to increase their lead until the 79th minute and Nordsjaelland came close on a couple of occasions to drawing level.

David Luiz’s free-kick gave Chelsea some breathing space though and then Mata and Ramires added further goals in the last eight minutes to seal the victory.

“It was a great result for us, it was a tough game,” said Lampard.

“They were a bit of an unknown but we know they played good football and we had to bide our time, we put the hard work in and all the goals came at the end.”

Asked if he was concerned at any point, Lampard said: “A little bit because this is Champions League football, there are no easy games and at 1-0 they created a few half-chances, hit the post in the second half.

“But once we got the second goal that was it and we dominated from there on.”

Chelsea top the group after Juventus were surprisingly held to a 1-1 home draw against Shakhtar Donetsk.

It took a thunderbolt from defender Leonardo Bonucci to guarantee a share of the spoils after Alex Teixeira had put the Ukrainians ahead on the counter-attack.

Georgios Samaras’s late header earned Celtic a 3-2 Group G victory over 10-man Spartak Moscow in the Luzhniki Stadium.

Striker Gary Hooper gave the visitors the lead in the 12th minute, with James Forest also netting.