Manchester United defeated bottom-club QPR 2-0 in London with the help of raucous away support to extend their lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League to 15 points.
Sir Alex send out an attacking line up, obviously intent on securing the points to pile extra pressure on Manchester City who face 3rd place Chelsea tomorrow. De Gea started in goal behind a back four of Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic and Evra. Young started on the left, with Nani on the right and Giggs and Carrick playing centrally. Hernandez and van Persie played up top.
On a decidedly shoddy pitch, QPR started brightly, their 4-5-1 formation giving them an extra man in midfield compared to United’s 4-4-2 leading to plenty of possession for Rangers in front of United’s back four.
United’s first real chance came from a Young free kick after 12 minutes which found an unmarked Nani in the box who could only glance the ball wide. 3 minutes later, Hernandez had a similar chance, this time from an Ashley Young cross in open play which was pushed over the bar by Cesar.
United adjusted to early pressure by dropping van Persie deeper than usual to match the numbers, and it was this extra pressure that led to United’s opener.
Giggs stole the ball in midfield and sprang forward before playing the ball out wide to van Persie. The Dutchman drove towards goal and saw his cross-come-shot saved by Cesar. The rebound landed outside the box at the feet of Rafael who smashed it on the volley right into the top corner; a technically supreme, magnificent strike to mark his 3rd goal of the season.
Having not scored a goal at home since Boxing Day 2012, and with United undefeated in the last 49 games after taking the lead, QPR had their work cut out for them to get back into the game. With 10 minutes to go until half time, Rafael distinguished himself at the other end of the field by saving a Chris Samba effort off the line before powering down the right and creating another chance for van Persie which Cesar pushed wide. It would be the last action of the game for RvP who had picked up a knock whilst Rafael was scoring by falling into the camera bunker next to the goal, and was substituted for Danny Welbeck in the 41st minute.
With 3 minutes to go in the first half, Manchester United won a free kick on their left. Giggs floated the ball in and found an unmarked Vidic who could only direct his header wide of Cesar’s right-hand post.
United started the second half brightly, with Young again finding joy down the left hand side, providing his 3rd dangerous cross of the game onto the head of Nani who headed low at Cesar who spilled the ball and then fell on it before a red shirt could capitalise.
Not to be outdone, QPR also upped the tempo, looking to create more than the long distance chances they’d been limited to in the first half. Inevitably however, this played into the hands of the visitors providing more space for United to break into, and generally providing a much more expansive and entertaining game.
Perhaps looking to capitalise whilst Rangers were in such an attacking frame of mind, Sir Alex replaced Hernandez with Rooney after 60 minutes. Remy came on for Zamora at the same time and promptly engineered himself a powerful shot on goal which was well saved by David De Gea. QPR carved themselves another opportunity from the resulting corner as Chris Samba rose to meet the ball at the back post, but could once again only direct his header wide.
Sir Alex made his final change after 67 minutes, bringing Valencia on for Young, a move which saw Nani switch to the left wing as Valencia took up his normal right wing role.
United should have extended their lead after 75 mins as Evra broke into the box and cut the ball back to Rooney who scuffed his shot.
The away fans who had been excellent all game then brought back an old chant that’s rarely used for a good 15 minute period – “It’s Carrick you know, hard to believe it’s not Scholes..” to the tune of Pilot’s “It’s Magic” – a fitting tribute to a player that’s having probably his best season for United, having started 52 of the last 54 PL games for United and whose role has often been misunderstood by many fans.
United finally doubled their lead in the 79th minute as Giggs was played into the QPR box by Nani. The Welshman composed himself and then lashed a low shot over the diving Cesar, who really should have done better.
With the last remnants of belief extinguished from QPR’s players, United saw out the game with ease, cementing the incredible 15 point lead with 11 games still to play. The result leaves QPR 7 points adrift of safety, and thankfully more than likely consigned to relegation.
(gif’s via Cadfael)