United continue title surge; Manchester United 2 QPR 0
With the title race hotting up, United welcomed Queens Park Rangers to Old Trafford on a day which promised to have huge ramifications upon the final destination of the title. Having enjoyed a superb run of form, and boosted by the easy victory recorded over the West London side in December, United were confident of building an 8 point lead at the top of the table before Manchester City faced Arsenal. After a relatively unsuccessful experiment at Blackburn, Fergie returned back to the tried and tested 442 with Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck returning to an attacking United line up.
At this stage of the season, every game represents a potential banana skin, especially with QPR, managed by former red Mark Hughes, scrapping for their premier league survival. United however showed no nerves in the opening stages, dominating over 90% of the ball in the first 10 minutes, despite failing to open up a determined Ranger’s defence. Ultimately, the game hinged on a moment of great controversy with a quarter of an hour gone, as Ashley Young was seemingly brought down by Shaun Derry in the box, giving United a penalty and also a man advantage, with Derry sent off for his part. However, replays showed both Young was offside, and also contact between the two was minimal, with Young going down somewhat theatrically in the process. A title race is no place for sympathy however, and Rooney comfortably dispatched the spot kick, handing United a huge advantage and settling the nerves in what could have been a nervy afternoon.
With space to operate both Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick exhibited their vast range of passing ability, as QPR looked to preserve a single goal deficit and remain in the game. Strangely however, and by Ferguson’s own admission, United looked too casual, creating only 2 headed chances in the remainder of the half, both provided by Antonio Valencia who was once again enjoying a fruitful afternoon down the right hand side.
It took until 5 minutes after half time for United to create a great chance to settle the matter, Scholes providing an inch perfect ball to the onrushing Rafael, only for the Brazilian defender to hit his shot straight at Kenny with the goal at his mercy. The introduction of Ryan Giggs on the hour mark brought United some extra verve, and eventually the second goal cushion, as the imperious Scholes rolled back the years to smash a 25 yard rocket past Kenny, condemning QPR to a potentially agonising final 20 minutes. Michael Carrick threatened to upstage his midfield partner minutes later with a thundering striker from 30 yards, only to see it clatter off the inside of the post and away to safety, as United looked content to close out the game without significant alarm. A century of passes completed by both Carrick and Scholes epitomised the ease with which United had controlled the contest, and with QPR having one eye on a crucial home game against Swansea to focus on, the reds strolled to an 8 point lead at the top of the table and re-affirmed their grip upon title number 20.
DDG- 6 probably his quietest afternoon in a red shirt to date.
Rafael – 6 Improved immeasurably this season.
Ferdinand – 6 Comfortably.
Evans – 7 Strong and focused.
Evra – 7 One of his better defensive performance.
Valencia – 7 Continued good run of form.
Scholes – 8 MOTM Showed exactly why he was brought back from retirement.
Carrick – 6 Slightly sloppy at times, but solid all round.
Young – 6 Looked dangerous when drifting inside.
Rooney – 6 Took penalty well, otherwise not quite on top form.
Welbeck – 6 Some poor finishing, but constantly offering intelligent movement.
Giggs – 6 gave United extra dimension.
Cleverley – 6 Brief, positive cameo.
Jones – 6