Gone in 60 seconds, United teach QPR harsh lessons – full match report
Monday, 19th Dec 2011 16:31 by Clive Whittingham
QPR succumbed to a 2-0 home defeat against Manchester United on Sunday with the champions blowing Neil Warnock’s pre-match plans out of the window with a goal inside the opening minute.
In a match billed as the battle of two champion teams the newly promoted Championship winners gave themselves an uphill task by conceding a goal to the country’s best side within the first minute.
But it was the events at the start of the second half that summed up QPR’s problems in this game, rather than the ‘rabbit-in-headlights’ beginning to the match. Trailing 1-0 with 45 minutes to go Rangers had created enough chances after falling behind to suggest all was not lost – a fast, high tempo, committed start to the second period could have brought big rewards for the London side.
Instead a full set of Man Utd players emerged together from the tunnel, with the match officials, looking bright and focussed and ready to finish the job. Rio Ferdinand completed a circuit of nearly every United player reminding them of their roles and responsibilities. QPR meanwhile sloped out sometime later in dribs and drabs. Four players at first, then another three, then nobody else for a while, then another and another until eventually, after a scandalous amount of time, there were ten on the field.
The eleventh, Danny Gabbidon, was nowhere to be seen and with United ready and time up referee Howard Webb recommenced play. Within 30 seconds Wayne Rooney had marauded into the area and worked a position in the space left vacant by Gabbidon, who was by now on the touchline asking to come on, that he really should have done better from. Luckily Cerny was equal to the task. Gabbidon was apparently having a leg wound stitched which is a perfectly good enough reason for his late arrival but QPR should have come out together, as a team, when he was ready to join them and not before as a disorganised rabble ill-prepared for the restart. It also might have been a idea to designate somebody to fill in for him temporarily while he was off.
It all rather summed up QPR – a bit ragged, a bit off the pace, a bit slow to react all afternoon against a team that rejoices in punishing those even slightly off their game. Sky Sports dictated a Sunday noon kick off for this game and QPR, at times, looked like the sort of lethargic, hung over cloggers you might find gracing park pitches up and down the country at this time of the week.
QPR know how to play these games as Manchester City and Chelsea will testify. They know about getting into opponents’ faces, not giving teams time to settle, using the ball intelligently when you have it, taking the chances when they arrive. Why the City and Chelsea performances weren’t replicated here who can tell. QPR lost this game because Manchester United are far better than them, but it would have helped had the basics such as ball retention and concentration been right and, perhaps, if they hadn’t looked so in awe of their opponents and actually roughed them up a bit. Nobody expects a newly promoted team to beat Manchester United, but they’d stand a better chance if they could pass the ball ten yards to a team mate successfully.
A similarly lacklustre performance in another difficult match at Liverpool last week saw changes made to the starting XI – one enforced, one through choice. Anton Ferdinand’s injury at Anfield meant he wasn’t fit to face his brother Rio and Matthew Connolly was given the nod to replace him alongside Gabbidon in the heart of the defence. Luke Young and Armand Traore were the full backs ahead of goalkeeper Radek Cerny whose man of the match display a week ago kept him in the side ahead of first choice Paddy Kenny who was fit enough to make the bench after his injury lay off.
In midfield Alejandro Faurlin and Joey Barton played in the centre with Jamie Mackie starting wide right and Shaun Wright-Phillips ostensibly on the left but again given a roaming role alongside Jay Bothroyd who supported lone striker Heidar Helguson in attack.
United are said to be decimated by injuries, but there was an audible intake of breath around Loftus Road prior to the ridiculously early kick off as the visiting team was read out. Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck in attack, Antonio Valencia and Nani on the wings, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra in defence – if this is a side suffering from injuries one would hate to think what they’d have done to us at full strength. For those bemoaning QPR’s performance in this game it might be worth considering United’s bench: Dimitar Berbatov, Javier Hernandez, Ashley Young, Ryan Giggs, Ji Sung Park, Anders Lindegaard and Ezekiel Fryers. In all seriousness, how are we going to compete with that?
Answer; we’re not. Within 50 seconds of the kick off we were behind. Cerny miscontrolled a back pass and hurried a clearance under pressure, United seized possession and sprung forward at pace, Valencia crossed and Wayne Rooney headed the ball into the ground and then watched as it bounced slowly into the bottom corner. It almost didn’t feel real, it took a moment to sink in.
It should have been two straight from the kick off. This time Armand Traore gave the ball away, Nani and Rooney broke at lightning speed and then Welbeck surged into the area only to be denied by a fine sliding block from Danny Gabbidon.
This was shaping up to be a long afternoon – it needed Shaun Wright Phillips to cut in from the left and fire over just to reassure the stunned home support that their team was actually in the game at all. That first attack seemed to encourage Rangers who won the game’s first corner after good work from Jay Bothroyd in the right channel and planted it straight onto Heidar Helguson’s head but he guided the ball over. They swiftly won another corner thereafter but found that United are often at their most dangerous when you think you have them on the back foot.
This time Joey Barton’s delivery wasn’t good, and was headed clear by the first defender at the near post. From there Rangers were in trouble, frantically scrambling back like the Keystone Cops while United swept forward like a graceful flock of birds. Only Nani picking the wrong option with his cut back from the byline stopped a second goal being scored. Two minutes later another graceful and speedy counter attack ended with Carrick marauding into the area and having the ball poked off his toe by Gabbidon.
QPR looked like a team in awe of its opposition, and more importantly a team that didn’t believe it had any chance of winning the game. There was none of the high tempo pressing game that had worked so well against Chelsea and Man City, none of the disrespect of reputations that so ruffled United’s two main title rivals. There was no atmosphere around the ground, no fight and belief on the pitch.
After 17 minutes Matthew Connolly took these issues into his own hands. Wayne Rooney collected the ball on the edge of the area and for the first time in the game a QPR player decided not to let the United man settle, turn and pick his next move. This time Connolly flew out of the line and executed a robust lunging tackle that left the England striker in a crumpled heap on the floor. Referee Howard Webb waved play on and suddenly the crowd and match came alive. United were furious, Alex Ferguson gesticulated wildly on the touchline as Rangers accelerated past him down the right flank with Jamie Mackie in possession. The former Plymouth man sent in a low cross that Bothroyd smacked a yard over the bar when he should have done better.
But God that felt good. Rooney was red of face and mood, Ferdinand was yellow carded for over vehement protests to Webb about the tackle, Ferguson moaned long and hard to the fourth official. We’d stumbled across a way to get something from the game. Sadly, once play restarted, the meek, mild and timid QPR team reappeared. It was nice while it lasted.
Thereafter normal service resumed. Faurlin gave the ball away in midfield allowing Welbeck to be released for a second goal that was well finished but ruled out for offside. Phil Jones hammered wide from the edge of the area and Danny Gabbidon was yellow carded for chopping down Antonio Valencia in another pacey counter attack. Jonny Evans contrived to head against the cross bar from four yards out with the goal open after Radek Cerny had flapped at a corner from Nani, then the Czech redeemed himself with a fine one on one save from Jones as he steamed forward from a deep lying position.
I’d thought initially that a central midfield of Barton and Faurlin versus Carrick and Jones could be an area that QPR could win the game from – ultimately it turned out to be one of the main reasons we lost. The physical size of the United pair compared to their opponents was stark and they absolutely dominated them in every possible way. Jones was used more often than not as a centre half at his previous club Blackburn, and his stature and drunken horse running style can fool you into thinking he’s some cumbersome defender being pressed into action out of position. But he’s a frightening talent for 19 and was one of the best players on the park here. It looks like Ferguson may have done it again.
Ten minutes of absolute, total and utter United domination concluded with an astonishing moment of play that began with Nani tricking his way past Young down the United left and cutting the ball back into the area for Rooney who’d found space and lost his marker. A goal always looked likely from this point but Connolly managed to get Rooney’s side footed effort off the line and then Cerny produced a save the likes of which I cannot recall seeing before to deny Welbeck who must have thought he’d scored with a firm shot from point blank range. From the resulting corner Evans’ header was cleared from the goal line by Faurlin and as the ball then dropped down in the six yard box Rooney poked wide from close range.
Had the scoreline been 4-0 at this stage nobody could have complained, and yet after surviving that siege Rangers promptly went to the other end of the field and could easily have equalised twice in a minute. First Helguson trundled into the area and forced David de Gea into a nervous save with his feet – the rebound fell to Bothroyd who got his volley from the edge of the area all wrong and blasted into the upper tier of the School End. Perhaps that was him finding his rage though because when Armand Traore than crossed nicely from the left the ball again fell to Bothroyd on the edge of the area and this time he caught his shot much more sweetly and guided it a foot or so wide of the bottom corner.
By the time he was substituted in the second half Bothroyd was coming under heavy fire from the QPR supporters, but once again I thought this was largely unwarranted. His languid style and lack of bravery make him an easy target but he posed as much threat as anybody in the first half and when he sent a devilish low cross through the six yard box a minute before the break Jamie Mackie was a foot or so away from toeing it into the net with an outstretched white boot.
Mackie had a decent first half himself, getting the better of Evra on two or three occasions and never letting the French international settle. Sadly his final ball was almost Damien Delaney like in its quality which rather undermined the good work that had gone before and he vanished from the game after half time.
After the farcical beginning to the second half the teams exchanged probing attacks. First Wright-Phillips won a soft free kick from Jones wide on the left but the delivery from Barton came to nothing. Then at the other end Danny Welbeck appeared to be fouled as he accelerated around Danny Gabbidon and into the area but Webb waved the appeals away and awarded a goal kick – just as well given that Gabbidon was booked in the first half. That was a rare controversial moment for Webb in what was the best display of refereeing we’ve seen this season.
In the five minutes around the hour mark Man Utd doubled their lead, and then gave QPR a lesson in cynically protecting your own goal. First Joey Barton passed the ball straight to Michael Carrick who was then allowed to run unchecked to the edge of the area and dispatch a low shot past Radek Cerny and into the net. Then, when Phil Jones repeated Barton’s trick and handed possession to Heidar Helguson, he immediately chased back and deliberately fouled the Icelandic striker. A yellow card he was glad to take, something QPR should be doing a lot more of. First Shane Long and now Michael Carrick have scored goals at the School End after QPR passed up opportunities for tactical fouls earlier in the moves.
In between those two incidents Shaun Wright-Phillips carried the ball to the edge of the area but refused the opportunity to shoot and instead teed up Jamie Mackie who shot straight at De Gea.
Both teams gave the ball away cheaply in this match, but Man Utd’s response to both receiving broken possession and then giving it up themselves was a world away from QPR. They almost made it three when Armand Traore, dallying on the ball while desperate for a passing option to appear, conceded possession setting up another quick counter attack that finished with Welbeck trying to curl a shot over and around Cerny but finding the Czech keeper equal to it with a spectacular camera save. That was to be Welbeck’s final input into the game, replaced by Javier Hernandez for the final 25 minutes as he continues his comeback from injury.
Neil Warnock made changes of his own, taking off Heidar Helguson for DJ Campbell and Shaun Wright-Phillips for Adel Taarabt. The Helguson decision in particular angered the home crowd and for the first time in Warnock’s career at QPR his decision was booed by the supporters who wanted to see Bothroyd removed instead. That Helguson is carrying a thigh strain into a busy Christmas period of winnable games that we need him fit for seemed to be lost on the back row managers among the QPR support.
Still United came, with Rooney missing at the far post after a short corner routine had resulted in the ball flying his way and then Rio Ferdinand hitting the inside of the other upright with a header from another corner although he had been flagged offside and the goal wouldn’t have counted. Jones hit the inside of the same post after another lung busting run and fine low shot past Cerny, and Nani tested the QPR keeper after skipping into the area but again the Portuguese could be accused of picking the wrong option at the death.
The game was in a familiar pattern once again – QPR lose possession, Man Utd create gilt edged chance. When Faurlin, having his worst game of the season, gave the ball away again on halfway Jones moved into the area and Gabbidon executed a fine block tackle. How strange that all the hope before the game rested on the centre of our midfield and all the fear surrounded the centre of our defence but on the day Gabbidon and Connolly were QPR’s two best outfield players and Faurlin and Barton two of the worst.
With a quarter of an hour to go QPR finally did put a bit of something together, and should have halved the deficit. Faurlin looked much more like his old self as he threaded a delightful reverse pass into the path of Taarabt in the area and the Moroccan then produced a trademark ball in behind the last defender with the outside of his boot. From five yards out it seemed easier for DJ Campbell to score but he fluffed his lines and sent the ball bouncing up onto the roof of the net.
The game rather petered out from there. The home crowd got their wish when Bothroyd, apparently injured, went off to be replaced by Hill so Traore could move forward down the left – ironic cheers and jeers for Bothroyd as he left the field presumably intended to ensure that his confidence is completely shattered for the next match. Another nod to the difference between the two sides came when Ferguson sent on England winger Ashley Young for Nani for the final few moments.
The last time these teams met on this ground 15 years ago United scored an equaliser so late it still raises the heckles of QPR fans who were there to this day. There could have been late drama here as well as QPR created two good chances in the dying embers of the game. First a long free kick from Connolly fell to DJ Campbell in the six yard box but sadly he had his back to goal and despite valiant efforts couldn’t about turn enough to get a shot away.
Then when Mackie got round Evra again down the right the Frenchman pulled him back and was fortunate not to give a penalty away. QPR packed the area for the free kick but Joey Barton’s hapless afternoon continued as he played a pass straight to a United player on the edge of the area, presumably looking for Faurlin, and inadvertently set up a counter attack that ended with Young shooting straight at Cerny.
It was another tiny incident from across the 90 minutes that summed up QPR’s problem on the day – they just couldn’t get the basics right. There is no Barcelona/Man City/Arsenal type patience and build up with United – if you give them the ball anywhere on the pitch you can expect to be facing a shot of some sort within 20 seconds. The speed and power with which they attack in broken play is astounding and far too much for a team like QPR to live with. The solution is to not concede possession in bad areas but QPR did that time and time and time again on Sunday – conceding two goals having held possession of the ball less than 15 seconds prior to the ball hitting the net and getting away with countless other similar incidents besides. Without the ball I didn’t think certain players worked hard enough, wanted it enough, or believed enough. There was a definite feeling that some were simply going through the motions in the full knowledge that we weren’t going to win the game.
But it’s hard to be too critical or downhearted. Look at the United team. Look at the United bench. We didn’t help ourselves but we played excellently against Manchester City and lost and had we done so again here we’d probably still have taken nothing from the game.
At the start of the season we looked at the fixtures for November and December – Chelsea, Stoke, Spurs, Man City, Norwich away where we never win, Liverpool and Man Utd all back to back and thought it looked somewhere between tough and impossible. That’s what it has proved to be. We haven’t disgraced ourselves in any of those matches, and have actually taken six points from them which is more than I’m sure many of us expected.
We’ve reached the end of that testing sequence now and have more winnable games with Sunderland, Norwich and Swansea over Christmas. There will then be January strengthening and a fixture list through January, February and March that reads: Wigan home, Villa away, Wolves home, Blackburn away, Fulham home, Everton home and Bolton away. It will be there, first in the transfer window and then across those seven fixtures, that our fate will be decided this season – not in a home game against the reigning champions in December, and not on Wednesday night against Sunderland contrary to the message board doom mongers who are already labelling that one a “must win game”.
QPR: Cerny 8, Young 6, Gabbidon 7, Connolly 7, Traore 6, Mackie 6, Barton 5, Faurlin 5, Wright-Phillips 5 (Taarabt 65, 6), Bothroyd 6 (Hill 75, 6), Helguson 6 (Campbell 65, 6)
Subs Not Used: Kenny, Orr, Derry, Smith
Booked: Gabbidon (foul)
Man Utd: De Gea 6, Smalling 7, Evans 7, Ferdinand 7, Evra 6, Valencia 7, Jones 8, Carrick 8, Nani 7(Young 88, -), Rooney 8 (Giggs 78, 6), Welbeck 7 (Hernandez 63, 6)
Subs Not Used: Lindegaard, Berbatov, Park, Fryers
Booked: Ferdinand (dissent), Jones (foul)
Goals: Rooney 1 (assisted Valencia), Carrick 56 (unassisted)
QPR Star Man – Radek Cerny 8 To be honest I was leaning towards giving this to either Connolly or Gabbidon who I thought were both excellent against two high quality forwards with next to no protection from the midfielders in front of them – who seemed keen to set United up more than their own attack half the time. Connolly in particular did exceptionally well against England’s best striker after being out for so long and it was very reassuring to see him back to his best after a difficult 2011 for him personally. But for the amount and quality of saves made, particularly the miracle stop from Welbeck in the first half, and despite a few flappy moments under crosses and nervous times with various pass backs, I’m going for Cerny for the second week running.
Referee: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire) 9 The best refereeing performance of the season so far. Webb was really on his game here, never more than ten yards from any decision to make and expertly using the advantage rule to keep the game flowing. I can think of a couple of soft free kicks and the Welbeck incident that had question marks over them but really, across 90 minutes, he was almost faultless. That said, QPR’s lack of physical presence in the game certainly made it an easy afternoon.
Attendance: 18,033 (3,100 Man Utd approx) The atmosphere wasn’t helped by the early kick off and United goal in the first minute. The ground seemed to be coming alive and building up to something after half time but Carrick’s goal soon burst that particularly bubble and for the final half an hour it seemed as if people were, like me, sitting quietly and wishing the time away. The grief handed out to Bothroyd and the booing of Neil Warnock’s substitution I just cannot for the life of me understand. What is this achieving? It’s making it harder for our team when we’re supposed to be helping them. Mindless.
Pictures – Action Images
Photo: Action Images
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When Saturday Comes #5 by wessex_exile
“Well, I can tell u my son was stood nearer the back of the Holker Street end and although he couldn't see who was responsible, he was disgusted and was very clear in telling me that the 'N' word was used by someone stood directly behind the goal nearer the front. I'm sick of hearing this, no one but the player being abused heard anything so maybe he was mistaken crap. This shite still exists despite everything that the authorities try to do because unfortunately there are still racists in every, city, town, village and hamlet in this country. [SwearFilter] scum of the earth.”
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