Saturday, 17 January 2015

QPR downed by two subs.

Queens Park Rangers 0 v Manchester United 2

A week in politics is a long time and so it would seem in football, especially after a terrible home defeat as United had suffered last time out. How the players must have been wishing for this game to come round quickly so they could right their wrongs and put on a display worthy of Manchester United.

Today's opponents QPR have had an awful season so far and at the start of today's clash were sitting one place off the bottom of the league. It seemed to be the perfect opportunity for United to bounce back and reassure all that last week was a blip and nothing more. This they did but of course not the easy way.

Social media had been on fire following the Southampton defeat with the majority of United fans, myself included, calling for the abandonment of the 3-5-2 system. The main reason being that it was simply not working. The three defenders entrusted with the roles at the back Smalling, Jones and Evans, looked out of sorts and out of ideas.

To play that system you need better equipped players and it could be something for the future once van Gaal has all the talent he believes can put his 'philosophies' into fruition. In the meantime reverting to a 4-4-2 (midfield diamond) or even a 4-4-3 formation seemed to be what the fans were calling for. Also, many had the view that Rooney is a striker, so therefore his goal scoring abilities are wasted in midfield.

So what system would Louis van Gaal implement for the trip to Loftus Road. All was revealed when the team was announced. De Gea, Jones, Evans, Rojo, Valencia, Carrick, Mata, Blind, Rooney, Di Maria, Falcao. The manager was sticking with his preferred 3-5-2 after all. Everyone knows about his stubborn streak, so we shouldn't have been greatly surprised.

Falcao was given a chance to impress, after being left out of the squad last week, as Robin van Persie failed to shake off his ankle injury in time. He would be partnered up front by Di Maria with captain Rooney continuing his deployment in midfield. Marcos Rojo made a return to the side at the expense of Luke Shaw.

United started the first half brightly with the midfielders playing high up the pitch taking the match to the QPR defenders who seemed happy to let United come at them. Falcao seemed a little rusty with an early chance from a great ball from Mata, His initial strike was saved by Green, who then made a second save as Falcao followed up his own shot.

QPR came within a whisker after 18 minutes when Zamora lifted the ball over the net, quickly followed by a Jonny Evans mistake, again, which allowed Austin to release a shot that David de Gea was alert to and push to safety. How many times have I questioned the validity of Evans at the back in this formation, he simply is not good enough. This seemed to give the home side an extra impetus in attack.

After the 20th minute United tried to push forward. However due to a lack of creativity mixed with poor distribution QPR broke away themselves. Austin trying a dipping shot from way outside the area which required a superb one handed save from the ever reliable de Gea. Exactly the sort of effort that was needed at the other end.

United should have been awarded a clear penalty after Rooney was brought down by Barton. The only people who didn't see it were the only ones that mattered, referee Swarbrick and his assistant.

The first yellow card of the game was no surprise as Joey Barton was cautioned for a high challenge on United's Evans. This was followed by Mata being booked for a clumsy foul. These offences were seen by the ref.

United ended the first 45 minutes with a couple of corners. It was very strange to see defender Phil Jones take them out on the left, not so strange seeing them amount to nothing. Are we really to believe this has been practiced at Carrington on the training ground.

I've been scratching my head to recall the last time a United center back or for that matter any center back had taken not one but two corners.

Half time 0-0. Once again a poor showing from the Red Devils. In summary QPR would have gone in at the break ahead if it wasn't for David de Gea.

The second half got underway with both sides making changes. United bringing on Marouane Fellaini in place of Juan Mata. Presumably to add steel to the middle of the park.

The brilliant away fans were shouting 'Attack, attack, attack!' seemingly calling for a change in the formation.

The partnership of Falcao and Di Maria up front was starting to gel, no more so than when Angel Di Maria delivered a pinpoint cross, Falcao met it with his head but Rob Green pulled off a brilliant save to keep the scores level at 0-0.

On 57 minutes van Gaal had seen enough and dragged Evans off and threw James Wilson on. At which time United at last changed to a back four set up and immediately the team seemed to be more comfortable in their play. You could also hear a virtual gasp of relieve from millions of fans around the world as they took to the internet to express their delight.

Then on 58 minutes substitute Fellaini got the vital opener. Valencia stormed into the area from the right and crossed to Fellaini who took one touch then slammed the ball into the back of the net from the middle of the box giving Green no chance in goal. 1-0 United.

QPR, as the home side is expected to do, tried to pressure United after the goal. Marcos Rojo became the second United player to have his name put in the book after a needless challenge. One thing was noticeable though, United looked considerably more comfortable on the ball playing with a back four than a back three.

Good forward play from James Wilson on the right almost gifted a chance to Falcao but the ball was flicked away from the Colombian by a defender  just before the striker could add the finishing touch. Already, Wilson and Falcao were having more of an impact together than Falcao had had with Argentinian Di Maria.

Towards the end of the 90 minutes Rangers only managed less than half chances as United controlled the remainder of the game to assure that those all important three points were in the bank. There was still time for De Gea to make his usual last minute near post save. There was time for one last change for United as Ander Herrera came on for Di Maria.

Then James Wilson scored his first goal of the season when United broke in the 94th minute. Bearing down on the QPR penalty area with three against one Wilson had two players to his left but opted to strike as he entered the box. His first left footed strike was saved by the keeper, but he kept his head brilliantly to score with a right footed rebound. A young man showing others how to do it with style.

The game ended 2-0 to United. Overall deserved, but it could have been all so different in the first 45 minutes. Three valuable points and another clean sheet is definitely not to be scoffed at looking at the results of other teams around us.

This was definitely a game of two halves as United changed their formation from the terrible 3-5-2 of the first half to the match winning flat back four of the second. How much more comfortable the players looked after the switch. Sure, the home side could have and probably should have done more to force an equaliser, but the back four, without Evans, remained resolute until the end.

Rooney in midfield was as industrious as ever but is a total waste of a striker, he and Di Maria should have swapped their roles. Rooney's passing was very poor today and every time Di Maria received the ball with his back to goal nothing came of it as he is not accustomed to that position; however, Rooney is.

It's very frustrating to watch, how it is for them to play god only knows. I get the feeling that Rooney would have relished getting stuck into the Rangers defence today. This tactical positioning is really difficult to comprehend.

It was great to see Wilson break his duck this season especially in the confident style he did. In fact the way he kept his composure to follow up and score the rebound from his own fine initial strike showed what regular United followers have been used to seeing from him in the reserves.

Give the lad a chance and he will bury it. A few older players can learn a thing or two from this young man's ability to find the net.

Next up is the fourth round of the FA Cup with United to visit Cambridge United next Friday evening. As I have said before this would seem our best chance of silverware but also a chance to try new things. For examaple, how about giving David de Gea a well earned rest and let's see what Victor Valdes has to offer. In defence recall McNair and Blackett, give Herrera his place back in midfield after his Yeovil heroics and let Wilson continue up front.

There we have it a week that ended on a more positive note than it had started.

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts. Until next time.

Miles Dunton.