“Two – One, and we f**ked it up” – Picture the scene; you’re managerless, bottom of the league, without a win in 12 (now 13) Premier League games, and full of mercenaries who play like strangers.. But at least you can have fun remembering the last game of last season, which you lost, handing City the title. “Two – One and we f**ked it up” cried the QPR fans over and over prior to kick off today, thereby entering themselves in the “away twats of the year” contest which was, until now, the exclusive preserve of Stoke “we-don’t-have-any-of-our-own-songs” City.
Today wasn’t pretty from either side, United eventually triumphing 3-1 in a rain-soaked encounter at Old Trafford, but not before going behind AGAIN (9th time in 13 games), and needing to make substitutions to alter the balance of the game.
Sir Alex handed a third consecutive start to Anders Lindegaard in goal, the first two due to De Gea’s dental emergency, and rest for the mid-week trip to Turkey. Evra, Evans, Ferdinand and Rafael made up the back four, with Scholes and Fletcher ahead of them in midfield. Ferguson opted to play Young wide right and Welbeck wide left leaving Rooney and van Persie up front.
Anyone who has been paying close attention to team selection and resulting performance this season will have shared my pre-match concerns that a central pairing of Scholes and Fletcher was ill equipped to both break down a resolute midfield and defence, or cope with the pacy counter-attacks that every team we play is now looking to exploit us with. The issue isn’t either player in isolation, rather their collaborative qualities, or lack thereof. Neither Fletcher (who i’m not convinced is fit yet) or Scholes drive past opposition midfielders, and neither have the pace to track back to help rectify mistakes. Ferguson can help them out by pairing them with a different type of midfielder – the youth of Cleverley or Anderson, or the defensive shielding of Carrick, but today he chose to do neither.
Nothing went to plan for the reds in the first half. Scholes seemed either off-form, or a step ahead of van Persie and Rooney up front leading to a number of misunderstandings resulting in QPR wining the ball back effortlessly.
Welbeck looked wasted on the left while Young played incredibly poorly on the right. They switched after half an hour, and Welbeck was able to drive in towards goal from the right to create United’s first real chance, though it came to nothing. Young should have had a penalty a few minutes later when he was pushed from behind by Shaun Derry who then squared up to Young.
With no substitutions at half time, the game followed the same pattern as it had in the first half up until the 52nd minute when Lindegaard could only parry Kieron Dyer’s shot into the path of Jamie Mackie who gleefully put QPR 1-0 up. Lindegaard demonstrating once again that he isn’t even a contender for the number one at United, even before his continuously abysmal distribution is brought into considerations.
Again behind, as has been the pattern for just under three quarters of all United’s league games this season, the reds were still not prompted in to life. Still they looked ponderous in attack to the point of it seeming unlikely that a decent chance would be created, let alone taken.
It would take a double substitution to change the course of the game, with Scholes and Young coming off for Anderson and Hernandez. Anderson – wait for it – changed the game and was easily the biggest factor in turning a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 win. Anderson drove the team forward taking the ball into QPR’s final third and then looking to get in behind their midfield and defence himself. Suddenly the Londoners’ defence had an extra threat to cope with and United looked invigorated.
United equalised in the 63rd minute as Rooney floated a cross to the back post (yes, it actually beat the first man..) which Welbeck nodded back towards goal, and Jonny Evans headed past Julio Cesar. The sense of relief at Old Trafford was palpable, as was the deflation evident in QPR’s players.
United’s second came from another corner from the same side just 5 minutes later. This time Rooney struck it onto the penalty spot and invited Darren Fletcher to attack it. He duly obliged and powered a header into the net. Hernandez added the third three minutes later with a simple side foot inside the box after a wonderful driving run and through ball from Anderson.
“One – nil, and you f**ked it up”.
The rest of the game petered out as United knew it was won and QPR resigned themselves to the fact that it was lost. Questions remain though over puzzling midfield selections, and worrying vulnerabilities to quick counter-attacks.