1. Whenever a side sacks their manager you have to worry about what impact it will have on their players ahead of the next game. Mark Hughes, who has had a dismal time at QPR, was sacked before the game and new manager Harry Redknapp was watching from the stands. “There’s only one Harry Redknapp!” the away fans sung and their players seemed genuinely motivated to perform. They had only picked up 1 point from their six away trips before yesterday but on their first half showing you’d struggle to point out which team was going for top of the table and which team was at the bottom. QPR didn’t look good but neither did United, although the away side looked handy enough of the break and we offered little when in the final third. Still, as Ferguson said after the game, we played properly for ten or fifteen minutes and this was enough to win us the game, illustrating just how poor that QPR side is.
2. Paul Scholes is a genius and for much of this season he has been one of our most effective players. His performances against Southampton away and Spurs in the second half were a joy to behold. He so often pulls the strings for us and despite having just turned 38-years-old, he still has so much to offer. Yesterday was a rare off day for him though and he seemed fairly determined to pick up his fifth yellow card of the season that sees him banned for a game. With just ten minutes played he had already been given his last warning by the ref but managed to last until the 55th minute until he was booked. Fergie subbed him off almost instantly and as the manager commented, Anderson changed the game. We had been so slow on the attack, which wasn’t helped by the formation and lack of wingers, but Ando upped the tempo. Instead of looking to pick a pass, he just charged forward from midfield with the ball at his feet and really gave the QPR defence something to think about. Within 15 minutes of him coming on, United went from 1-0 down to 3-1 up, with him assisting the third goal. The Brazilian is long overdue a start in the league. Can we expect that for West Ham and Reading? Let’s hope so. Anderson’s United career has fallen in to a horrible cycle of him playing well, picking up a long term injury, returning to look half arsed and not good enough, picking up and playing well, then getting injured again. Hopefully he can be given a long run in the team now to prove what he can do and break the cycle of injuries.
3. Whilst I’ve singled out Scholes, that is more to provide a direct comparison with what Anderson brought to the game, but there were much worse performers than him on the pitch. Ashley Young, yet again, looked very poor, and I do wonder what it is the manager thinks he brings to the team. He won’t run past players, his crosses hit the first defender, his freekicks go in to the wall and he loses possession regularly. In the attacking third, he completed as many passes as Jonny Evans and half as many as Rio Ferdinand. I don’t doubt his effort, I genuinely believe that Young is trying hard when he’s on the pitch, but he just doesn’t seem good enough. He’s 27-years-old and has been at the club for over a season, so now he should be at his peak. Maybe a string of games will help him improve but right now he looks to be a poor man’s Nani, but it’s the Portuguese winger we’ll sadly be kicking out in January/next summer.
4. Danny Welbeck didn’t do himself any favours yesterday either but then he was played out of position. He could have had a goal to his name seconds before he was taken off if Robin van Persie had played it across goal for a simple tap in, instead of lashing it in to the side netting. It was a frustrating afternoon for our strikers, with Wayne Rooney probably having the best day of the lot thanks to two great corners but he was prone to having the ball pinched off him too easily. Maybe the blame for that can be the slowness of the game before the changes with half an hour to go, but they just didn’t seem at the races. Rooney had two shots on target in 90 minutes and Van Persie had one. When you consider this is the worst team in the league we were playing, at home, it doesn’t look great. The conditions probably didn’t help though, with Van Persie slipping and sliding all over the place, but it would be good to see them back on the scoresheet midweek.
5. That said, who needs goalscoring strikers when you have a homegrown defender and midfielder coming up with the goods? Evans has now scored 3 goals in his past 7 games, a record that mirrors Rooney’s recent form, having previously scored just one goal for the club. He was solid in defence but is looking more and more confident coming forward too. He looked chuffed to bits when wheeling away in celebration and, had we not still had a game to go out and win, would have likely indulged in the crowd’s adulation more than he did, but it was straight back for the restart. It was a Rooney corner and a Welbeck head down that set up our equaliser. The goal that put us ahead came directly from a Rooney corner and it was Darren Fletcher, scoring his first goal since the consolation one he grabbed for us in the game we do not speak of last season, whose header found the back of the net. He had a fairly unremarkable game, although did see the ball more than any of our players, but it was brilliant to see his name on the scoresheet again.
6. After scoring so many goals from the bench, Chicharito was rewarded with a place in our starting line-up last weekend when Rooney was missing. The whole team were unimpressive but Hernandez did little to show the boss why he should move up in pecking order. Yesterday, he had one attempt on goal and it wrapped up the game for us. Hernandez is a brilliant finisher, who often needs just one chance to score, and I’d be tempted to keep him on the bench. Start him in the cup games and give him half an hour or so in the league to keep him happy. If he doesn’t play regularly for us, there are plenty of other teams who will be keen to give him more minutes on the pitch, so we have to get the right balance. Van Persie and Rooney are rightly our first choice but Hernandez is a brilliant option to have. He averages a goal every 60 minutes this season which is incredibly impressive when you compare him to other strikers like Dzeko (one goal per every 68 minutes), Suarez (one every 108 minutes), Ba (one every 121 minutes), Van Persie (one every 129 minutes) and Tevez (one every 154 minutes).
7. Rafael da Silva and Patrice Evra quietly got on with their job and were rarely caught out of position, which is probably the biggest flaw for the both of them. Rafael has gone from strength to strength this season and Evra, whilst suffering from poor form for the best part of two seasons, has really upped his game in recent weeks. The goal conceded was down to poor positioning though, but from goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard and probably Rio Ferdinand, who was marking nobody as Mackie came in unmarked behind him for a simple tap in. Lindegaard didn’t have much to do but was unimpressive for their goal. David de Gea is our number 1. Business as usual next week please.
8. Throughout the first half and particularly when we were 1-0 down, my mind kept wandering to the obligatory Harry Redknapp interview that would follow. Unable to keep the grin out of his voice, he would hail the triffic performance and the triffic team spirit, and I just couldn’t bear it. Watching MOTD last night I saw that odious melt-face didn’t even bother smiling when QPR took the lead, let alone applauding. It goes without saying I will be delighted if we are champions in May, but I would also be very pleased to see that lot relegated.
9. For an hour we looked poor yesterday. We had no ideas and our play was very slow. This season will be the easiest in years to win the league, for the team that really wants it, because everyone at the top looks fairly naff on a pretty regular basis. When you look at the talent in our team, and in that of City and Chelsea, it’s hard to believe the standard of football has been so low. It was a huge defeat last weekend and one we couldn’t really afford right now. We got the result we want at Stamford Bridge today and now we have to win our up coming games to stay there, but we should be top by a comfortable margin. Essentially, all that matters is the points, but I want us to get in to a run of good form so we don’t have to be worrying that every game is going to produce a result like the Everton, Spurs and Norwich games did. The title is there for the taking. Let’s bloody well go and get it!
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