United were superior in every department and could have easily had five or six, such was the gulf in quality between Fergie’s men and the West London outfit.
Aiming to continue his team’s fine form away from home – 5 wins and 2 draws up to today – Ferguson fielded an attacking-minded 11 with an unchanged back four, Welbeck and Rooney up-front and Valencia and Nani out wide. Jones was, again, chosen alongside Carrick as defensive midfielder and the youngster produced yet another brilliant performance, further sign of his quality and development.
Ferguson, celebrating his 750th Premier League in charge for United, had registered his first win as United manager against QPR and his team were off to a fantastic start within the first 50 seconds.
QPR fans had barely taken their seats when Rooney played the ball wide to Valencia with his head, before making a brilliant run into the box to meet the Ecuadorian’s cross and convert the first chance of the game with a diving header. 52 seconds gone and United were already 1-0 up.
United looked in the mood and could have been 2-0 up within three minutes as Welbeck forced a great save from Cerny after Rooney had played a clever little ball for the onrushing England striker.
QPR’s third choice keeper would go on to deny United time and again throughout the afternoon.
United seemed happy to sit back and invite QPR forward but Warnock’s men couldn’t produce a single chance, and that, perhaps, explains their dreadful home record of one win in seven games.
United have often been accused this season – not unreasonably by the way – of being unable to play at a sustained pace for large spells, but it was a different story today. First Welbeck was judged offside after a very late call from the linesman on the far side when he appeared to be in line with the last defender, then Evans hit the bar from three yards after Cerny had misjudged Welbeck’s flick following a corner.
QPR’s keeper quickly made amends two minutes later, denying Jones after the United midfielder had burst forward to reach a perfectly weighted pass from Wayne Rooney. QPR might not have been the toughest challenge, but Jones’ runs from midfield today were nothing short of superb and had a “Robsonesque” feeling to them. If the youngster keeps going in such fine form it will be extremely hard for Fergie to move him back into the back four.
Cerny was at it again on the 30th minute mark when he pulled off a reflex save on Valencia, after Nani had ghosted past three defenders and pulled the ball back for Rooney, whose shot was then cleared off the line.
On the following corner Evans had Cerny beaten but QPR escaped again as Faurlin prevented the ball from crossing the line and, on the counter-attack, Helguson called De Gea into action, the Spaniard replying with a fine left foot save.
It was De Gea first and only contribution to the game, QPR never stretched the United back four, superbly marshaled by Ferdinand, and, when they did, they couldn’t find the target, with Bothroyd just before halftime and with DJ Campbell 15 minutes from time.
United started the second half in similar fashion, pushing for that second goal that would have put them out of sight.
The goal came after 10 minutes, from the unlikeliest of sources as Carrick intercepted a misplaced pass from Joey Barton before running half of the pitch and unleashing a low shot that beat Cerny on his near post.
After the first half heroics, it wasn’t a great piece of goalkeeping from QPR’s number 1 but it was, nevertheless, a well-taken and really deserved goal for Carrick.
Often indicated as United’s weak link in midfield, the Geordie’s form has drastically improved in the last few weeks, and he seems to be getting back to his 2006-07 best. With Phil Jones providing cover and muscles in midfield, Carrick is freed from defensive duties and can dictate the tempo of the game, sometimes even venturing in runs forward, just as he did today.
The second goal killed QPR off and the score-line could have been much more severe for Warnock’s men, but for another superb save from Cerny, as he tipped Welbeck’s curling effort over the bar, and a bit of bad luck for United as Jones hit the post after a clever one-two with Nani.
United continued their positive afternoon as they welcomed back Javier Hernandez, the United fans giving a rousing reception to the Mexican goal poacher as he entered the pitch.
But for the size of the ground – QPR’s Loftus Road is the smallest ground in the league, with a capacity just over 18.000 – an occasional spectator could have been forgiven for thinking that United were actually the home team, such was the noise produced by the 3.000 strong Red Army contingent.
Many of them felt the Christmas atmosphere, belting out countless renditions of “The twelve days of Cantona”.
United notched up another win on the road, the sixth in eight games and, with two goals conceded in the last seven league games, they looked really solid in every department.
Fulham away on Wednesday, followed by home games against Wigan and Blackburn are fixtures such that few would bet against Fergie’s men to be top of the league on New Year’s Day.
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