As the festive period approaches, United took on the first of two London away days in a week agains newly promoted QPR at Loftus Road. Fresh off their confident 4-1 victory over Wolves, United were looking to continue their good league form and temporarily go back to the top with City playing later in the day. With injuries ravaging the squad, Ferguson named an unchanged line up for the first time since October, as the boss looked to maintain the consistent league form which has seen United recover well since the defeat to City.
With the chance to really put some pressure on City for the first time, United came out of the traps with real gusto, and were ahead before QPR could even pause for breath, as Antonio Valencia’s inch perfect cross was nodded home by Rooney for his 3rd goal in 2 games. Having got off to the dream start, United were looking back to their imperious best and looked favourites to double their lead, with Welbeck and then Nani going close. However, as the half continued, QPR’s began to adapt to the frentic pace of the contest, and began to forge some chances of their own, with Helguson and Bothroyd going close for the home side. It was United however who forged the clear cut chances, and both Evans and Jones were guilty of squandering guilt edge chances to kill the game off. Firstly, Evans managed to head onto the cross bar from 6 yards with the goal at his mercy, and then Jones tamely shot at Cerny’s legs after being magnificently played through from Rooney, leaving United with a deserved but precarious 1-0 half time advantage.
Courtesy of a calamitous lack of time keeping from Danny Gabbidon, United nearly began the second half in the same fashion as the first, with Rooney’s poor touch preventing him from getting a shot away. United were not to be repressed for long, and an overdue second goal came courtesy of an unlikely source, Michael Carrick, who picked off Joey Barton’s sloppy pass and drove into the QPR half before placing his shot home from the edge of the area. With a two goal cushion, United looked ready to punish a weary QPR side who were leaking chances to the reds at regular intervals. Welbeck nearly scored a deserved goal with his last involvement of the game, breaking on to Rooney’s lay off before curling a shot into the far corner, forcing Cerny into a flying save. United were further boosted by the welcome return of Javier Hernandez, back from injury and looking to inflict further pain upon the home side. With the points secured however, United seemed to take their foot off the gas, and the removal of Rooney with 15 minutes to go brought the reds attacking fluidity to a halt, with brief suarays from Nani and Valencia failing to make further inroads.
Rangers nearly made it a tense finale, as substitute DJ Campbell inexplicably missed from 4 yards out, scuffing his shot over the cross bar. United were not to be denied however, as they strolled to a comfortable victory and temporarily back to the top of the table. With another game in west London to come on Wednesday night against Fulham, United will be confident of picking up three points as they appear to be hitting top form just at the right time, and with the critics sharpening their knives.
DDG – 6 Good save early in the game with his feet. Quiet afternoon.
Smalling – 6 Defended very competently.
Ferdinand – 7 Dominated at the back, looks in very sharp form.
Evans – 6 Should hace scored twice, but defended very well.
Evra – 4 Looked hopelessly out of sorts in first half, improved second.
Valencia – 7 Back to his best.
Carrick – 7 Well taken goal and strong performance.
Jones – 7 Unlucky not to score, growing in midfield role.
Nani – 7 Terrorised QPR all game.
Rooney – 9 MOTM Exhibition in how to play ‘no 10’ role.
Welbeck – 7 Superb movement opened space for others to play.
Hernandez – 6 Welcome return.
Giggs – 6 Brief cameo.