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QPR v United: Reds seek goals to end barren run

January 17, 2015 Tags: , Matches 4 comments
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Well that was the end of that – an 11 match unbeaten run ended by Southampton’s determined victory at Old Trafford last weekend. It brought Louis van Gaal’s record to 37 points in 21 games; a record identical to his supine predecessor David Moyes. Worse still, the Scot’s record against the same teams last season earned a point more than Van Gaal in similar fixtures.

Or in other words, Van Gaal’s storied reputation remains the insulating factor between the Dutchman and the downpour of criticism that eventually broke Moyes’ spirit. After all, the extended unbeaten run always masked a less palatable truth; that United’s vintage under Van Gaal has been every bit as insipid as that deployed by Moyes. United’s inability to register a shot on target against Southampton said much for the work yet to come if the club harbours ambitions to become England’s preeminent force once again.

The genuine curiosity in this is not the time taken to turn United around, despite the headlines drawn by the club’s £150 million summer spend, but real absence of an obvious strategy for improvement. Van Gaal’s much vaunted philosophy is no clearer six months into the role than it was last July when the Dutchman walked into the job.

None of this predicates Van Gaal’s failure of course. The 62-year-old’s record at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and with the Dutch national team suggests that he will make a success of the challenge, integrating new talent alongside an anticipated clear-out next summer.

In the here-and-now, however, the Dutchman is slowly facing up to greater scrutiny. This is true of the repetitive tactical metamorphosis, but especially of an attacking unit that has scored just once in the past three league fixtures.

“You can see we have not created too many chances in the last three matches but, before that, we played at Tottenham and we had six big chances with the same system,” the manager told MUTV.

“It’s always dependable on the opponents also but I have to say, in the last phase of our attack, we’ve failed in the last pass and that is the most important pass. I hope we shall improve that in the coming matches.”

That break down in the final phase has come whatever combination of attacking players; Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Angel di Maria contributing fewer assists between them than Cesc Fareham this season. Meanwhile, one of last season’s few attacking successes, Adnan Januzaj, remains an outcast. The Belgian failed to make United’s matchday squad last weekend.

Whether Radamel Falcao, another underperforming star name, plays a leading part as the season concludes is still open to question, although the Colombian could return to the United’s starting line-up following Robin van Persie’s injury. Falcao missed out on the squad altogether against Southampton – a humiliating demotion that led to more than half of Van Gaal’s Friday press-conference dominated by questions about the 28-year-old’s future.

That Falcao has scored just three in 13 appearances this season adds weight to an increasingly popular thesis that one of the world’s finest attacking players was permanently blunted by the cruciate knee injury suffered last season. Certainly, Van Gaal has little time for Falcao’s past if his future does not include a greater contribution to United’s cause.

“He has to prove himself, that we have agreed,” said Van Gaal. “We have made this deal and everything is clear and it is not the end of the year so he has the chance for that. If a player costs 95 million or 5,000 it’s not any difference for me. You have to prove yourself. A player of £95 million has to prove himself also.”

Van Persie remains a doubt with a minor ankle problem, but Rafael and Marcos Rojo could play following minor injuries. Ashley Young is the only United player definitely out of the match at Loftus Road.

The largely fit squad offers Van Gaal the opportunity to switch to a back four at Loftus Road after the curious 3-3-2-2 system deployed at home to Southampton. It has been rare that the Dutchman’s side has impressed when deployed in a back three this season and defeat such as that suffered on Sunday might ordinarily point to a change in direction. Not that Van Gaal has ever followed an obvious pattern in team selection this season.

QPR v Manchester United, Premier League, Loftus Road, 17  January 2015

In the opposite dugout Harry Redknapp is without defender Armand Traore because of a toe injury, with Sandro and Yun Suk-Young also sidelined. Niko Kranjcar has recovered from a thigh complaint and could make the bench. Former United defender Rio Ferdinand has recovered from a groin injury but is not fit enough to start.

Redknapp remains bullish despite a run of form that has left the west London side without victory since 20 December and just two points of the bottom. If nothing else, striker Charlie Austin provides hope. The Englishman has scored eight goals in his last seven Premier League matches matches at Loftus Road.

“We’ll have a right go tomorrow, for sure,” said Redknapp on Friday. “We’ll get at them as best we can and really take the game to them.
“I love football – and games like this is what it’s all about. “I’m excited about playing United at Loftus Road. They’ve spent some serious money and they’ve got a great squad of players and a top manager. But we are at home and we’ve played very well in front of our own supporters this year. We’ve shown what we can do at Loftus Road and our results have been good.”

Still, the omens could hardly be much worse for the former Tottenham Hotspur manager. Aside from secure just 11 points from the past 30 his side has allowed more shots against them than any other side in the Premier League.

It’s a trait that even United’s gun-shy forward line should exploit. Van Gaal certainly needs it.

QPR (4-5-1): Green; Isla, Dunne, Caulker, Hill; Vargas, Henry, Barton, Fer, Taarabt; Austin
United (4-1-2-1-2): de Gea; Rafael, Jones, Evans, Shaw; Carrick; Di Maria, Blind; Rooney; Wilson, Falcao

Subs from
QPR: Traore, Phillips, McCarthy, Onuoha, Mutch, Zamora, Zárate
United: Valdes, Lindegaard, Smalling, Valencia, McNair, Rojo, Blackett, Anderson, Pereira, Fellaini, Januzaj, Herrera

QPR 13 – Draw 33 – United 52

Referee: Neil Swarbrick
Assistants: S Ledger, E Smart
Fourth Official: C Pawson

QPR 0-2 United

£1 bet club
Wilson to score first @ 9/2
Running total: £(-)11

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United v QPR: Van Gaal considers four debuts

September 13, 2014 Tags: , Matches 1 comment
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Louis van Gaal is nothing if not confident. Yet, the Dutchman’s faith in his “philosophy” has been tested during the opening weeks of the 62-year-old’s Old Trafford tenure. Defeat to Swansea City in the Premier League, insipid draws against Sunderland and Burnley, and the embarrassing loss at Milton Keynes Dons, have proffered the impression of seamless transition – from David Moyes. It is not the start the Dutchman wanted.

Yet, for all the crisis copy in recent weeks the United manager is likely to include four new players in his team for the fixture with Queens Park Rangers on Sunday. It is an injection of talent that cannot but provide stimulus for the campaign ahead. With the international break over Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo and Radamel Falcao should play some part in the match at Old Trafford this weekend. Luke Shaw, now fit, is likely to make his competitive début. It is welcome relief for a manager whose side boasts just two points from the opening three fixtures of the new campaign.

United’s extravagant spending this summer stretched to some £150 million in the wake of the club’s failed experiment with Moyes. If the empire is indeed crumbling, as so many observers have noted, then the Glazer family is seemingly, and finally, willing to use United’s commercial power to prop up the foundations of an ailing squad.

Yet, this is also an investment that must reap immediate rewards; a top four finish and Champions League football next season as an absolute minimum. The Dutch manager has little doubt – United’s quartet of debutants, plus Ander Herrera and Angel Di Maria, will offer the quality to take the team back into Europe next season.

“I think a club like United has to have targets,” said Van Gaal on Friday.

“I also have targets so I don’t think it [top three] is an unreasonable target. It shall be difficult but a club such as United has to always have a target. I think within the top three is logical because United want to be in the Champions League.”

Van Gaal’s goal is hampered, in the short-term at least, by an injury list that has eased little over the international break. While Van Gaal is keen to press ahead with a 3-4-1-2 system that has not always seemed comfortable with the players, it is the absentees that concern the Dutchman most. Shaw returns after a hamstring problem, but Ashley Young and Phil Jones have picked up fresh injuries over the break.

“The situation has not improved much because while there are players coming back, there are also players who have got injured in the last week,” said Van Gaal. “It’s more or less the same situation and that’s not a very positive one.”

Still, Old Trafford’s gaze will rest on United’s star-studded acquisitions this weekend. Rojo is likely to make his début in United’s back-three alongside Jonny Evans and Tyler Blackett, with Chris Smalling on injured list.

In midfield Blind could line up with Herrera, while Van Gaal has the job of working out how to cram Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Juan Mata and Di Maria into the side. Over the longer piece Van Gaal may opt to deploy Rooney in a role at ‘number 10’, although the Englishman’s dire early season form showed no signs of improving over two matches for the national team last week. Mata is the most likely to give this weekend.

Falcao may not start, although the loan signing Falcao says that he is ready to play.

“I feel well, I started to play two months ago with Monaco and I’ve improved in the last month a lot,” said the former Porto striker.

“I have scored goals and that’s important to a striker. I am confident with my physical form and I am comfortable with my knee. This is a new process, a new team and this year some new players have come in. I think Manchester United will build a big team this season and in future seasons. I feel very good in myself and I can’t wait to get started.”

Manchester United v Queens Park Rangers, Old Trafford, 14 September

Falcao has scored 200 goals across 305 games for River Plate, Porto, Atlético Madrid and Monaco. It is a record that brings expectation along with the huge paycheck.

The temptation, of course, remains for Van Gaal to cram his plethora of stars into an unbalanced side. Falcao is every bit a classic number nine, while this is a role to which Van Persie is increasingly evolved over the past two seasons. The observation leaves Van Gaal likely to deploy Rooney, his seemingly undroppable captain, in a the deeper role that provides a goal threat, but removes Mata’s subtly and surety of first touch from the team.

In deeper areas Blind will play a crucial role in coming weeks, screening the back three and providing a pivotal link between defence and attack – especially in Michael Carrick’s long-term absence. The Dutchman’s lack of pace may have kept the transfer fee to a relatively bargain-basement £14 million, but the player’s defensive nous and range of passing should prove an important asset in the season to come.

“He is a player who can see situations in advance,” said the manager.

“He can always pass to the free player, and when he doesn’t have the ball, he knows when he has to press the opponent. That’s a very good ability to have. I like him as a defensive midfielder. He can run for 90 minutes too and is always fit. That’s another very good quality for a player.”

Meanwhile, Harry Redknapp’s Rangers side arrives having not kept a clean sheet against United since 1992 – losing 10 of the past 12 fixtures with the Reds and each of the last five at Old Trafford.

If history is not on the west Londoners’ side then experience might be, with Rio Ferdinand leading QPR’s defence. Ferdinand made more than 400 appearances for United before leaving on a free transfer in the summer. New signings Sandro and Niko Kranjcar will be handed debuts at Old Trafford, although Joey Barton has a hamstring and may not play.

The focus is on United though. With no European football this season United has just two trophies to play for with the summer barely over. Indeed, it is the first time since 1962 that United will chase so little silverware at this stage of the season. This is not a record to be proud of.

Yet, four debutants do offer a bright new dawn; the darkest point having been reached in Milton Keynes last month. United, surely, cannot fail to win again?

United (3-4-1-2): de Gea; Evans, Rojo, Blackett; Rafael, Herrera, Blind, Di Maria, Shaw; Van Persie, Rooney
QPR (4-4-2): Green; Isla, Caulker, Ferdinand, Hill; Phillips, Mutch, Sandro, Kranjcar, Hoilett; Austin

Subs from 
United: Amos, Johnstone, Thorpe, Vermiji, Januzaj, James, Anderson, Fletcher, Mata, Falcao, Wilson
QPR: Traore, Onuoha, Henry, Murphy, Dunne, Zamora, Taarabt, Barton, Fer


United 51 – Draw 32 – QPR 13

Referee: Phil Dowd
Assistants: P Kirkup, S Ledger
Fourth Official: A Marriner

United 3-0 QPR

£1 bet club
Falcao & 3-0 @ 15/1

Running total: £(-)4

Preview: United v QPR

November 24, 2012 Tags: , Matches 98 comments

The latest tribute to Sir Alex Ferguson’s remarkable career was unveiled at a wet Old Trafford on Friday – a nine foot high statute placed at the entrance to the renamed Sir Alex Ferguson Stand. The opening ceremony, attended by the great and good of United’s past and present, is the latest in a series of tributes to the great manager as the winter of his career approaches.

Yet, there is some sad irony in celebrations of Ferguson’s greatness, coming at the end of a week in which his side has been anything but. Defeat to Galatasaray in the Champions League may not have damaged United, but that to Norwich City, domestically, certainly did. More worrying than a pair of 1-0 losses, though, is the insipid manner in which Ferguson’s side played this week, especially at Carrow Road.

United’s defending has been anything but optimal this season, leaving the Reds in genuine trouble should Ferguson’s multi-talented attacking unit fail as it did in East Anglia. Of course, despite two defeats in a week there’s no crisis at Old Trafford – with United qualified for the knockout stages in Europe, and second by a point at home, a fourth defeat of the season on Tuesday was far from fatal.

Good job, though, that Queens Park Rangers arrive at Old Trafford this weekend, with the Premier League’s worst team now managerless after Mark Hughes’ dismissal. With the visitors in disarray it should prove to be a comfortable victory for Ferguson’s side at Old Trafford, although few will be surprised if QPR’s hapless players turned up the work-rate for the first time this season. That old cliché about it being the visitors’ Cup Final certainly holds true.

Ferguson will have an almost fully fit squad too, with half a dozen players returning to the first team after sitting out the Champions League defeat in Turkey.

“Wayne Rooney is fit,” said Ferguson. “He had tonsillitis but has been training all week, which is good. Jonny Evans will hopefully train today but I don’t know if he will be available for tomorrow. Chris Smalling had a small shoulder injury on Tuesday night.

“I wanted to play Phil Jones anyway – at least the two of them are back because I thought Jones did very well in his first game back, which is really good news. Nani is not available yet, he’s not fit yet. He’s still got a little problem with his hamstring.”

Manchester United v QPR - Premier League, Old Trafford - Saturday 24 November 2012, 3.00pmStill, the real concern is no longer with injuries, although captain Nemanja Vidić and playmaker Shinji Kagawa may well not play this side of Christmas. Jonny Evans is back in training, but will not feature.

Yet, following a brace of losses Ferguson’s primary motive is for his team to find the winning formula once again. QPR’s current state-of-play should help United, although the Hoops now have little to lose in a game that everybody expects the hosts to win comfortably.

“Obviously last week was a massive disappointment for us,” said striker Rooney, who returns to the team following a bout of tonsilitis.

“After losing that one, this QPR game couldn’t have come quickly enough. We’re looking to get back out there in the league and try and get the three points. If we can get the three points, that will take us to the top again. It might only be for 24 hours but it’s always great to be there.

“QPR last season made it difficult for us. They went down to ten men early on and got players behind the ball and made it difficult. I’m sure it will be the same this season.”

QPR owner Tony Fernandes’ decision to dismiss Hughes this week, replacing the Welshman with out-of-work Harry Redknapp, came as little surprise, with the west London outfit picking up just four Premier League points this season.

Yet, the option to retain Hughes until Friday was met with bewilderment in some quarters, leaving Redknapp no time to take the reins before kick-off. The 65-year-old may watch the game from the stands, with Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki taking charge for the game.

Former Red Park Ji-sung is unlikely to face his former club due to a knee problem, while Bobby Zamora and Andrew Johnson are also out. Loanee Fabio is ineligible.

“If you analyse things a little bit more closely, it’s probably a lesson to everyone that changing a team and bringing 11 new players in to the Premier League is not easy,” Ferguson added.

“But I am surprised they’ve only got four points. I didn’t expect them to immediately set a blazing trail or be up at the top of the league or anything like that with 11 new players to bed in. But they’ve only four points and of course that creates its own headlines.”

United supporters attending Old Trafford on Saturday will hope that the media will have a different story to tell than the Reds have faced in the past week. Indeed, with Manchester City not in action until Sunday, United will return to the Premier League summit should victory be achieved in a rare Saturday 3pm kick off.

Match Details
Manchester United v QPR – Premier League, Old Trafford – Saturday 24 November 2012, 3.00pm

Possible teams
United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael, Smalling, Ferdinand, Evra; Carrick, Scholes; Valencia, Rooney, Young; van Persie. Subs from: Lindegaard, Jones, Powell, Wootton, Buttner, Cleverley, Fletcher, Anderson, Hernandez, Welbeck, Henríquez.

QPR (4-5-1): Julio Cesar; Onouha, Ferdinand, Nelsen, Traore; Hoilett, Taarabt, Granero, Diakite, Faurlin; Cisse. Subs from: Cerny, Bosingwa, Green, Wright-Phillips, Dyer, Ehmer, Magri, Mackie, Derry, Ephraim, Harriman.

Referee: L Probert
Assistants: S Beck, S Child
Fourth official: G Eltringham

United: LWWWLL

Head to Head
Last 10: United 9, QPR 0, Draw 1
Overall: United 30, QPR 6, Draw 13


  • Rooney’s return at Old Trafford is welcome after the striker missed last week’s defeat a Norwich – the Scouser recorded the fastest average speed of any United player in the previous three games, including 4.65 mph against Aston Villa;
  • Paul Scholes may now be the wrong side of 38, but the veteran has played more successful passes per minute than any other league player this season, according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, with 277 in under nine hours of pitch time;
  • Michael Carrick put in the passing performance of the season against Villa two weeks ago, completing 92 passes in the opponents half – however it was just 49 against Norwich;
  • Passing may be United’s forté this season, but dribbling certainly isn’t – the Reds have just two of the top 100 top dribblers this season in Antonio Valencia and Luis Nani;
  • The Hoops’ best hope of an upset may be Adel Taarabt, who has struck 20 shots on target this season – three more than Robin Van Persie – with the Algerian on the pitch for two thirds as many minutes as the Dutch striker;
  • Esteban Granero will be equally key to QPR’s afternoon – the former Real Madrid player covered more miles than any of his teammates for the fourth league game in a row against Southampton, with a shift of 6.43 miles;
  • If QPR is to take advantage of David De Gea’s perceived uncertainty in the air, the managerless team may have to put in a cross – Jose Bosingwa is the only QPR player to have put ten crosses into the box this season, while Everton’s Leighton Baines has chalked up 60;
  • Unsurprisingly Ji Sung Park has topped the charts for distance run in four of his eight games so far this season, covering a total of 46.06 miles.


Reds prepared to leave it late for eight

April 7, 2012 Tags: , Matches 131 comments

Manchester United will move eight points clear of the pack with victory over Mark Hughes’ Queens Park Rangers this weekend. That United plays ahead of Manchester City – Roberto Mancini’s men facing in-form Arsenal at the Emirates at 4pm Sunday – is a quirk of the fixture list that will pile the pressure on the Italian’s men should United secure victory first. Just the incentive required to eliminate any hint of complacency with seven games remaining.

Hughes’ visitors, who have beaten both Arsenal and Liverpool in recent weeks, remain in a relegation dog-fight as one of five sides that could still go down. It should ensure a competitive fixture at Old Trafford, with little love lost between Hughes and his former mentor, Sir Alex Ferguson.

Just as United demonstrated ample patience in victory over Blackburn Rovers on Monday night, Ferguson’s men will leave it late, if necessary, to secure three points at Old Trafford on Sunday. Indeed, says the United manager, the home side will draw on history should QPR prove to as stubborn as Blackburn.

Despite a growing sense of anticipation at Old Trafford, patience remains the watchword, with United closing in domestic title number 20.

“The game against QPR will be another like we experienced on Monday against a team fighting for their survival,” said Ferguson on Friday.

“They’re never easy – it wasn’t easy on Monday, but we managed to get a fantastic result with late goals. I don’t mind if we have to wait until the last 10 minutes again to win on Sunday. Over the years we have had these moments when we have scored late goals. Look back to 1993 and Sheffield Wednesday, two goals in the last nine minutes of injury-time. It is part of our history. We don’t give in. We are capable of scoring late goals. It is not an accident. There is a thread relating to the history of the club that way for many years now.

“This season you could point to the recovery at Chelsea, or you could point to Norwich or Monday night. With nine minutes to go it was still 0-0, but the players didn’t give in. They kept their intensity and concentration really well. That was the plus point on Monday. The intensity of our game was brilliant and our concentration was great.”

Manchester United versus Queens Park Rangers, Premier League, Old Trafford, 8 April 2012, 2pmUnited’s increasing authority since Paul Scholes’ return in January is a marked feature of this season’s run-in, with the 37-year-old midfielder once again establishing the Reds as the best passing side in the country. It is just one of many relevant data points, perhaps, but United’s pass completion rate ranks highest of all Premier League teams since January. It was sixth best before Scholes’ return to Old Trafford.

Yet, while Scholes has been outstanding alongside Michael Carrick in the heart of United’s midfield over the past four months, as the Reds have passed their way to 10 victories in the past 11 domestic league fixtures, Ferguson knows that only points mean prizes at this stage of the season.

United dominated possession against Blackburn, only for two moments of inspiration from Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young to win United the game and secure a five point Premier League lead.

“You have to grind results out and keep going and hope the team in front of you make mistakes or lose points,” added the 70-year-old Scot.

“You drop points in this league. It’s a fact. We all drop points. No-one goes through a season without dropping points. It is about when you drop them and, on the run-in, your aim is not to drop as many as your immediate opponents, which we haven’t done. We are in a good spell and are getting players back so there is some freshness in the team at the moment. Hopefully we can keep it going.”

Ferguson welcomes Nani back into the United fold, with the Portuguese winger finally recovering from an ankle problem that has kept the former Sporting player on the sidelines for five matches. Meanwhile, Ferguson can report a full bill of health in defence, with both Phil Jones and Chris Smalling challenging for a position in United’s back four against QPR. Indeed, only long-term injury concerns Anderson, Nemanja Vidić, Darren Fletcher and Michael Owen are likely to miss out on Sunday’s fixture.

However, United’s manager is unlikely make many changes from the side that beat Blackburn at Ewood, with winger Young likely to come into the side for Phil Jones, who failed to impress in central midfield against his former employers. The lob-sided nature of United’s shape at Ewood eventually gave way to a more balanced, penetrative, attack as Ferguson used his full complement of substitutes.

If the formation at Ewood smacked of caution then Ferguson is likely to preach attack against QPR, even if the United manager is aware of the opposition’s desperation to secure a result at Old Trafford. Hughes’ side lies 17th in the Premier League, ahead of the relegation zone on goal difference alone.

“They are all wakening up I suppose,” added Ferguson of the relegation battle.

“No-one would have bet on QPR beating Liverpool and Arsenal two weeks in a row and Wigan have had hit a bit of form too. The statistics for teams at the bottom picking up points are not good. What we had last weekend which was exceptional. All of a sudden Blackburn are right back into it and Villa are not out of it either.”

Meanwhile, Rangers’ manager Hughes welcomes back strikers Heidar Helguson and DJ Campbell from injury after the pair played in a friendly with West Ham United on Wednesday. The strike pair will have to settle for a place on the bench. However, former City players Joey Barton and Nedum Onuoha will start at Old Trafford, although neither player’s  form has justified the reported £60-80,000 per week in wages.

Former United player Hughes has enjoyed an oft feisty relationship with Ferguson since turning his hand to management, first with first Wales and then Blackburn, City and then Fulham. But Hughes, who played 467 games, scoring 163 goals, in two spells with United, concedes that the title is likely to be heading to Old Trafford this season, whatever the result on Sunday.

“I think at this stage of the season there is a little bit of a sense of inevitability,” admitted the 48-year-old manager.

“United have been in this situation so many times before, Manchester City haven’t and I think that can be key in this situation. You sense that United are looking at fixtures, taking each game on its merits and just ticking off games they have to play from now until the end of the season. You sense United are in the box-seat and you would be very surprised if they lost it from the position they find themselves in now.”

And history is on United’s side, not only in the title race, but in this fixture. Sunday’s match will be the 10th Premier League meeting between the two clubs, with the visitors having failed to win any of the previous nine encounters. Ferguson will fully understand this is no time to change that sequence of results.

Match details
Manchester United versus Queens Park Rangers, Premier League, Old Trafford, 8 April 2012, 2pm.

Potential Line-ups
United (4-4-1-1): de Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Scholes, Carrick, Young; Rooney; Hernández. Subs from: Amos, Fabio, Smalling, Jones, Giggs, Park, Cleverley, Nani, Pogba, Welbeck, Berbatov.

QPR (4-5-1): Kenny; Hill, Ferdinand, Onuoha, Taiwo; Mackie, Diakite, Derry, Barton Taarabt; Zamora. Subs from: Cerny, Gabbidon, Young, Buzsaky, Wright-Phillips, Campbell, Bothroyd, Helguson.

Match Stats

  • United scored two late goals courtesy of Valencia and Young to beat Blackburn on Monday night. Young, who has made nine assists this season, claimed his fifth goal of the season;
  • Young is fifth in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for shooting accuracy, discounting players who have had fewer than twenty shots at goal, getting 74 per cent of his 43 shots at goal on target;
  • Valencia’s goals have come from just 14 shots, putting him in the top ten for shots per goal this season, needing just 3.5 shots for each goal;
  • United defender Rio Ferdinand is one of only two players in the EA Index to have attempted over 20 tackles without losing a single one. Rio has won 23 tackles so far this season;
  • Team-mate Phil Jones is ranked sixth in tackles won, having won 94 per cent of the 36 tackles he has attempted this season
  • Meanwhile, United’s visitors QPR secured a shock victory against Arsenal in the last round of Premier League games. Goals from Adel Taarabt and Samba Diakite gave QPR three vital points, meaning the west Londoners are level with relegation rivals Blackburn and Wigan Athletic;
  • Taarabt’s goal was his first of the season, despite being 16th overall in the Index for shots at goal, with 65 shots in total and 65 per cent on target;
  • QPR midfielder Akos Buzsacky has made 27 shots at goal this season, one every 23 and a half minutes while on the pitch – nobody shoots more frequently in the Premier League.

United: LWLWWW

Referee: Lee Mason (Bolton)
Assistants: A Garratt, D C Richards
Fourth Official: K Friend

Reds without nine for London double-header

December 17, 2011 Tags: , Matches 54 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson will be without almost a team of first team players for two visits to the Capital this week as Manchester United’s injury crisis intensifies. Captain Nemanja Vidic and midfielder Darren Fletcher have each been ruled out for the season, while more than half-a-dozen other players are unlikely to travel to London this week. The absentees mean Ferguson will reshuffle in defence and midfield as United aim to hit the Premier League summit with a victory over Queens Park Rangers on Sunday.

But Ferguson has seemingly ruled out dipping into the winter transfer market despite the rash of injuries that threaten to disrupt United’s season. Indeed, injury to Darron Gibson in Thursday night’s reserve match leaves Ferguson may leave Michael Carrick as the Reds only senior central midfielder for the trip south. However, Ferguson says that the club will not buy unless a player already on Ferguson’s target list becomes available.

“It is how you handle the situation,” claimed Ferguson.

“Buying in January has seldom been a route we have taken. Unless a player we have always been interested in comes along – and there is no sign of that at the moment – it is not suitable for us. We are not going to panic; we have enough experience among the staff to cope with these things.

“We still have players who can wear the red jersey and they will wear it with complete confidence. Vidic’s character and energy are a loss. Darren is a big-game player, he is a loss, but we have enough players who have experienced everything that is coming in the second half of the season.”

Ferguson’s obstinance, whether directed by a genuine belief in the resources still available or the reported lack of transfer funds, means that United will continue to field an unconventional midfield. Carrick is again likely to be joined by Phil Jones in the engine room on Sunday. Contract rebel Paul Pogba could make the bench, as could youngsters Larnell Cole and Ezikiel Fryers.

QPR v Manchester United, Premier League, 17 December 2011, Loftus RoadHowever, Ferguson’s options are increased by one, with Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov available for selection against Neil Warnock’s newly promoted Londoners. Berbatov should make United’s bench, with Danny Welbeck partnering Wayne Rooney in attack. Meanwhile, Brazilian full-back Rafael da Silva is back in training and could feature over the Christmas programme, although the 20-year-old did not travel to London.

Despite the extended injury list Ferguson is in confident mood, with United having never lost to QPR in the Premier League. The clubs have not met since 1996, although QPR did beat United 4-1 on New Year’s Day 1992 with Dennis Bailey scoring a hat-trick.

“I always enjoy going to Queens Park Rangers,” added Ferguson.

“It’s always a good atmosphere and we used to be able to get a bigger support than normal. They used to give us one section – the one behind the goal and then part of the side, which always meant we had about 6,000 fans. We have a good record there and I hope we can continue that. They’ve done well and given themselves a chance of staying in the league by investing and bringing in a few players. It’s going to be a hard game.

“Queens Park Rangers have invested the right way. Neil Warnock realised that when you get into the Premier League you need big players. That gives them a better chance because it’s an unremitting league in terms of the demands, particularly for teams coming out of the Championship. Strangely, Norwich, Swansea and QPR have done well and adapted to the demands of the league. The rest test, though, is in the second half of the season.”

Meanwhile, QPR striker DJ Campbell could start for the first time in two months after featuring from the bench against Liverpool last weekend. However, defender Anton Ferdinand is a doubt, while perennially injured Kieron Dyer will miss the rest of the season.

The absences do little to help Warnock’s cause, with QPR sat comfortably in mid-table but suffering poor form at Loftus Road this season. Indeed, only three Premier League teams have a worse home record than the Hoops, while Warnock’s men have lost four of the last six in the league.

This should, despite United’s problems, add up to three points for the visitors. Victory will take the Reds above Manchester City to the Premier League summit for an afternoon at least.

Match Facts
Queens Park Rangers versus Manchester United, Premier League, Loftus Road, Sunday 17 December 2011, 12 noon.

Likely Line-ups
QPR (4-4-2): Cerny; Young, Gabbidon, Orr, Traore; Wright-Phillips, Faurlin, Barton, Mackie; Bothroyd, Helguson. Subs from: Putnins, Hill, Connolly, Derry, Buzsaky, Smith, Campbell, Taarabt, Puncheon.

United (4-4-1-1): De Gea; Smalling, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Nani, Jones, Carrick, Young; Rooney; Welbeck. Subs from: Lindegaard, Fryers, Park, Pogba, Valencia, Cole, Diouf, Giggs, Macheda, Berbatov.

United: WDLWLW

Performance stats

  • United won 4-1 against Wolverhapton Wanderers last weekend, with Michael Carrick covering the most ground for the Reds at 6.79 miles;
  • Rooney scored twice in the match – his 10th and 11th goals of the season – and helped the Scouser regain top spot in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index from Robin van Persie;
  • Nani’s goals were his fourth and fifth for United in the league, and the midfielder rose 13 places in the Index to seventh;
  • Rooney struck ten shots on target in that game, the most any player has in a single game so far this season, but the striker’s influence stretches beyond goalscoring. The former Evertonian has completed 409 passes in his opponent’s half this season. To put that in context, the next highest total for a striker is Luis Suarez’ 296, with the pair having played almost exactly the same minutes on the pitch;
  • Meanwhile, QPR lost to Liverpool last weekend. Alejandro Faurlin covered the most ground in that game with 5.4 miles. Faurlin’s total for the season is now 97.42 miles and he should pass the 100 mile mark against United;
  • Goalkeeper Radek Cerny earned praise from Neil Warnock having stepped into the side. The Czech goalkeeper has made 19 saves in his three appearances so far this season;
  • Former Manchester Ciy winger Shaun Wright-Phillips hit the post against Liverpool as he continues his search for his first QPR goal. Wright-Phillips has had 32 efforts at goal so far this season, and contributed 22 dribbles and 17 crosses.

Referee: Howard Webb (Rotherham)
Assistants: D Cann, A Garratt
Fourth Official: A Marriner