After the utter disappointment experienced in the Champions League, with Manchester United failing to come away from Basel with the required point to put them through to the next round, spirits will have been lifted when the appropriate response was made against Wolves with a dominant 4-1 victory that took them to within two points of league leaders, Manchester City. This week, a visit to Loftus Road was scheduled for a match with Queen’s Park Rangers. A potentially tough match against Premier League newcomers who had so far impressed at times so far this season, with performances such as victory against Chelsea making them a side not to be taken lightly. An unchanged line up ad been announced for the trip, with Valencia and Nani occupying the wings, Welbeck and Rooney up front and Carrick with Jones in the centre of midfield. Notable inclusions in the squad included Javier Hernandez, back sooner than originally thought as well as Dimitar Berbatov. United did not take long to assert themselves on the game, making the perfect start with 53 seconds on the clock, a cross from Valencia found the head of Wayne Rooney, giving his side the early breakthrough. The game continued in much the same way that it had started, with United getting forward often, creating plenty and by half time could well have been 2 or 3 more goals to the good. QPR also had one or two moments that could have brought them level, but United may well have been disappointed going in at half time only the single goal in front. The second half saw United once again take control, with Rooney testing Cerny in the Rangers goal early on. However, the second goal came in the 56th minute when Michael Carrick shrugged off his challenge to run on and hit a low shot at the near post that should have been dealt with better but found it’s way past the ‘keeper to give his side a comfortable cushion. United did not sit back however, as they continued to go forward with the likes of Nani, Rooney and Welbeck all providing a threat as well as Hernandez when he replaced Welbeck later on. Even Jonny Evans could have got himself a couple of goals, corners finding his head on more than one occasion. Overall then a pleasing display for United fans and Sir Alex Ferguson, with a comfortable 2-0 away victory and keeping the pressure on City at the top of the table. With that here are five things that may be taken from the game.
1) Rooney – settling back in to his role up front
After breaking his brief dry spell in front of goal against Wolves, Sir Alex Ferguson was hoping it would lead to a glut of goals from Wayne Rooney. Grabbing another against QPR in such quick time was certainly a step in the right direction in a game that saw Rooney look far more threatening than he has done in recent times perhaps starting to settle back in to a role up front after a spell playing somewhat deeper. He also seems to be enjoying partnering Welbeck up front and based on Welbeck’s form, could see it as a more regular pairing in the future.
2) Valencia starting to pick up form again
After a start to the season that saw relatively few starts and a couple of appearances that appeared to suggest a “delayed reaction” to his broken leg (i.e. backing off and appearing more timid and hesitant in his play), it will have been encouraging to see Valencia once again provide a threat and find himself involved in much of United’s play so often channeled on the right hand side. Throughout he looked to get involved and could well have had more besides the one assist for Rooney early on. It is also worth noting that Nani did not struggle as much as he has done recently playing out the on left, having a strong showing himself.
3) Welbeck worthy of more starts
With many good performances in the team on Sunday, one player that certainly shone was Danny Welbeck. Although not man of the match (Wayne Rooney deserves that), he certainly showed how well he has developed and continued to show why he has become such a regular this season. He had his chances to score, most notably a curling shot just outside the box that was produced a fine save from Cerny, and showed great energy in trying to create chances going forward right up until his substitution later on.
4) Darren Fletcher out indefinitely, Phil Jones taking position in midfield, is another needed?
With the news that Darren Fletcher has been suffering from Ulcerative Colitis and will be needing time off with what was already perceived to be a United midfield lacking in a certain quality and depth, thoughts have turned to the potential for new signings in January, something often swiftly batted away by Ferguson. One does wonder whether the depth of the midfield is enough to see them through to the end of the season but as some will argue, to be in contention in the league at this point with it means it cannot be that bad. Phil Jones has impressed since being given the role but many still believe a central defensive position is the more natural position and one that he should be taking up regularly. Speaking of which, Jones himself had chances to score, having a one-on-one effort saved in the first half and hitting the post in the second. His tackles were as strong and impressive as they have been for much of the season and if he would rather he been in defense, one must admire his contribution to the midfield all the same.
5) Threat going forward and creative… but wasteful
One cannot deny that United were not short of ideas on Sunday, regularly creating various avenues in which to set up chances and provide goal scoring opportunities. However, one gripe may be that they did not make more of the chances when they presented themselves and in all what may be seen as wasteful in a victory that may have seen more. Jones, Rooney, Hernandez and Welbeck and others all had chances and although some were down to good goalkeeping, one could argue that they should have done better. Although a victory is a victory and the 3 points are most important, there were times when fans may have wondered if their side were to rue certain missed opportunities, when QPR themselves could have grabbed a goal or two.