Manchester United continued their run of wins and their assault on their 20th league title with a dominating 2-0 win of relegation threatened Queens Park Rangers.
In the knowledge that to win today would put United 8 points clear of title rivals City, who were to kick off away to Arsenal later, Sir Alex Ferguson named a strong starting line up. Many expected some rotation, given that we are to play 3 games in 7 days, but this was indeed our strongest 11 available to the manager.
From the very first whistle The Reds set out their stall: to retain the ball and put QPR under the cosh. Possession after 8 minutes was 92% in favour of United, and the game was played in the QPR half for the majority of the game. Much of it was played in the QPR final 3rd in fact. With the ball United passed around the opposition with ease, QPR were giving away a number of free kicks around the their box and were inviting pressure on themselves. Paddy Kenny in the QPR goal had to be at his best to turn one of these Wayne Rooney free kicks away for a corner.
With the United attack swarming all over QPR it really was a case of backs to the wall for them. Give them credit though, they were doing it well. United weren’t being pressed on the ball but the numbers in defence meant that there was little space for United to get in behind the defence. United were playing with a tempo and with intent, but they were also patient, however,. The feeling was that it was only a matter of time before an Antonio Valencia cross or run, or a beautifully crafted ball from Paul Scholes would break the deadlock.
As it was, the deadlock was broken in the 14th minute via a controversial Wayne Rooney penalty. With a ball played through to Ashley Young, Shaun Derry was adjudged to have bungled Young over as he ran across him and the penalty was awarded. Replays showed that not only was the foul was soft to say the least, Young was offside when the ball was played through to him. To add insult to QPR injury Derry was also shown a red card. Yes, Patrick Vieira and other fans will grumble, but I was unaware that we are the only club to be given poor decisions in our favour. It seems we are though, according to those not involved with the club.
With Derry having to take the long trudge off the Old Trafford pitch, Wayne Rooney had to wait a few minutes before he could dispatch the penalty. He did, powerfully to his left. Kenny guessed the right way but was beaten by the power from Rooney.
QPR, now down to ten men, were showing even less of a threat to United. It wasn’t until the 22nd minute that David De Gea was forced into making his 1st save. An Adel Taarabt shot looped off a Michael Carrick block, but De Gea was able to push the ball over for a corner. The only other moment which gave us a scare was again from Taarabt, after a Rafael mistake let him in. Thankfully the ever solid Johnny Evans was quick to cover and block his shot.
United continued to dominate the 1st half completely. Michael Carrick and, even more so, Paul Scholes ran the game in Centre Midfield, spreading the ball and, as always, being the base of United attacks. Out wide Rafael and Valencia were causing problems down the right and Evra was always giving Ashley Young an option. It as Evra who found himself striding into the box who found Danny Welbeck with space to turn and shoot. It was only the numbers in the box which meant he didn’t find the net, instead having his shot blocked twice.
Welbeck and Young were also unlucky not to double Uniteds lead before the break. Both had headed chances, but on each occasion couldn’t quite stretch high enough to make decent connections to direct the ball on target.
The teams went in at half time with United one up. QPR feeling aggrieved at the Penalty and red card, United disappointed not to have broken down a stubborn defence more often and be further ahead.
The second half was much the same as the first: United dominating possession and territory from the off. Briefly United had thought they had put the game to bed early in the 2nd half. Danny Welbeck converted a Valencia cross from 5 yards out but was just, and I do mean just, offside. With that moment gone, it was only a couple of minutes later when Welbeck found himself put in again. This time however he lifted his shot high of Paddy Kennys goal. It was a excellent chance, and really you would have expected him to at least test the ‘keeper.
QPR themselves did have a brief spell of possession in the United half before the hour. This though never created anything other than a couple of corners to threaten United.
Unlike the 1st half, United were now finding gaps in the QPR back line and they were creating some good oportunities. None more so tan when Paul Scholes, still dictating the game, split the defence to put Rafael clean through on goal. Kenny read Rafaels intentions though and, with a little help from the cross bar, managed to keep the scoreline the same.
It did have a feeling that today could be one of those days when United would be fruitless in their search for a second goal. Some of the play around the opposition box was delightful to watch, and it had created some good chances in the 2nd half. Welbeck found himself one on one once again after a Rooney through ball, but could only strike his left foot effort straight at Kenny. For all the good football being played by United, perhaps a more direct approach was what was needed to finish this one off.
Paul Scholes dually obliged. After failing to fully clear a United corner, Scholes found himself a little over 20 yards out with time and space, and also with the Old Trafford urging him to “shooot!” After a couple of sighters earlier in the match, this time he found the target to put United 2 nil to the good.
QPR manager, and United legend, Mark Hughes decided to go for broke and bring on Shaun Wright-Phillips and Tommy Smith to try and liven up the team and give them a more attacking formation to try and worry The Reds.
United did sit a little now, they had the game won and didn’t need to have the same tempo or press QPR quite so much. Sir Alex, having brought on Ryan Giggs for Ashley Young before the 2nd goal, introduced Phil Jones, for Rafael, along with Tom Cleverley for the outstanding Paul Scholes.
With the clock ticking down United once again looked to add more goals. Once again they played some beautiful football in and around the QPR box but it was a thunderous effort from Michael Carrick, from some twenty yards out, which came closest to increasing the lead. His shot however clattered the post and came back out.
Although there were no further goals, the job was done and we were 8 points clear at the top of the league. This run of excellent form continues. Ferguson will make sure that complacency does not become a factor, as we still have some more than tricky games ahead, not least Wigan away on Wednesday. United worked hard today, but couldn’t really have asked for a more straight forward game given the number of games we have this week.
The pressure remains on City to produce.
You can follow Adam on Twitter here