A very strange feeling this week after Manchester United`s defeat to Southampton at Old Trafford with very little confidence from United fans at their sides prospects at Loftus Road against a QPR side that sit second from bottom in the Premier League table.
Normally this game would be an away win on most people`s bets but with United failing to hit the target against the Saints last weekend and QPR`s good home form, a lot of people were thinking a draw would be a good result for the Red Devils.
QPR set-up as a 4-4-2 with leading scorer Charlie Austin up top with Bobby Zamora whilst United started once again with a 3-5-2 formation so disliked by United supporters . Rojo came back into the side with Robin Van Persie missing out through injury so Falcao had a chance to prove his manager wrong, who said in his Friday press conference that Falcao still had to prove himself at Old Trafford. Again Angel Di Maria was up front with Falcao meaning Wayne Rooney was in a deeper midfield role.
Two scousers as captains, Joey Barton and Wayne Rooney led the teams out onto the tight pitch at Loftus Road with QPR hoping to beat United for the first time at home since 1989 in all competitions.
The game started scrappy with Jones and Mata guilty of giving the ball straight to the Rangers players with the latter giving the ball to Zamora who on five minutes tried to chip David De Gea from all of 50 yards. Rangers were typically harassing United not letting them get into their stride early on.
This theme continued right through the first half with many players guilty of giving simple balls away, Di Maria is clearly ineffective up front, why Van Gaal continues to persevere with Rooney playing in Di Maria`s position and vice versa who knows?
United`s build up play was once again far too slow to cut through QPR`s midfield with rangers happy to get men back and easily break up any United attack. Rangers attacked with more pace and you felt one long ball or set piece may open United up and you could see Rangers being difficult to break down if they went a goal up.
Once again Valencia dithered on the wing, reluctant to take a defender on and Falcao often got the ball in good space only for a defender to easily nick the ball off him. That early season optimism at United when they went on a long unbeaten run has clearly disappeared and the whole team are once again playing like individuals.
The only chance of note from United was when Mata floated a ball into Falcao who took it down well and his shot was well saved by Rob Green who then saved Falcao`s rebound. United should have had a penalty when Joey Barton clearly made no attempt to play the ball and dragged Rooney down inside the box that was not seen by either the referee or the linesman.
QPR`s main chance came from their main threat of Charlie Austin who from far out volleyed towards goal only for De Gea to push it away.
So much to be done at half time from both managers to get their sides to play at a higher level and provide a cutting edge in attack.
In the second half it was no surprise when United went to a back four, when James Wilson came on for Jonny Evans, that they saw more of the ball with much better possession. The diamond formation suits the reds much better, Di Maria is dangerous when he is running at defences with the ball rather than up top. Fellaini had more of an influence over the side than Mata and he retained the ball better than the Spaniard.
Vargas was a constant threat and when Rojo and Carrick got in each other’s way deep in the rangers half QPR broke and at one point they outnumbered United three to one but the move came to nothing. Charlie Austin became more and more isolated up front and De Gea had little to do until late on with United getting plenty of players back to snuff out any attacks.
As the game went into the last fifteen minutes you could see United were the most likely to score with several counter attacks. Blind played a great ball out to Di Maria who was hugging the touchline, he went on a great run and supplied a dangerous cross into the penalty box. It looked nailed on for the onrushing Falcao to score but Caulker managed to get a nick on the ball which took it away from the Columbian who from six yards out looked odds on to score. A short time later, Wilson on the same right wing, put in a cross for Falcao but it just had too much pace on the cross.
QPR huffed and puffed but their threat got less and less with their main threat coming from launching high balls into the United penalty area. De Gea had to be sharp to block a shot from a tight angle but as the clock ticked onto 90 minutes, United broke with Wilson who was supported by Falcao and Di Maria all against one QPR defender. A classic counter attack ended with a strong shot from Wilson being spilled by Green and Wilson tucked the rebound into the corner and all three points were going back to Manchester.
A sketchy performance from the reds who looked more of a threat and dictated the play better when they went to a diamond with four at the back, note that Mr Van Gaal! QPR for all their endeavour ran out of options and with tough games at home coming up, they have a real battle to avoid the drop.
Far from a polished performance from United who leapfrog Southampton into third, but a win is a win and with a poor run recently, three points are very welcome for Van Gaal.
Written by Ian Hope [@fromtwelveyards]