Manchester United go 15 points clear in the title-race after their clinical 2-0 defeat of Queens Park Rangers.
In what's a rare occurrence, there weren't too many surprise selection choices by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson -- perhaps only Ryan Giggs in central-midfield and Wayne Rooney's inclusion on the bench after his recent sinus infection. Queens Park Rangers manager had a few more slight surprises -- Bobby Zamora was up front (he's been a fitness concern as of late) while the steely Shaun Derry was dropped in favor of the more technical Esteban Granero. Jose Bosignwa was also a surprise inclusion at right-back.
For most of the first-half, United struggled to establish control and this was perhaps evident by them surprisingly only having 45% of the possession during that time-frame. QPR were combative and they were closing down the away side quickly whenever they got on the ball. United struggled to string together even three or four passes in a row. Despite this though, the away side showed more quality near the box -- both in attack and defensively -- and this was clearly displayed by by Rafael's wonderstrike in the 23rd minute. Robin van Persie beat Clint Hill to the byline to send in a cross -- which was followed by the talisman being injured after falling into a cameraman's hole -- and this was cleared by QPR goalkeeper Julio Cesar. The United right-back, though, picked up the ball just outside the penalty area and fired a missile into the far top corner. The ferocious volley is arguably United's goal of the season.
For the remainder of the opening half, the match continued to be a bit sloppy. Christopher Samba nearly equalised from a corner but his header was cleared off the line by Rafael. Soon after the QPR defender's attempt, Rafael whipped in a lovely cross that was clinically volleyed by van Persie. Cesar, though, made an impressive save to deny the Dutchman from his 20th Premier League goal. That would be it for van Persie as he was substituted off in the 41st minute for Danny Welbeck -- hopefully it was only as a precaution.
It was a calmer start to the second-half from a United perspective as they did much better to hold onto the ball. QPR sat back a bit more as well as they would not be able to press actively for a full 90 minutes. At times, things opened up a bit because neither side were active closing down the other in the second-half -- thus, players had time on the ball -- but at the same time, the tempo often slowed with no one showing urgency. In the 80th minute, Nani impressively slipped Giggs into the box and the legend sealed the win with a clinical left-footed finish. The 39-year-old nearly had a brace when his delightful right-footed chip -- in the closing stages of the match -- dinked off the crossbar.
All in all, it was a win that perhaps sums up United's season: they were mostly in control, they weren't always convincing, there was a nervy moment or two, there were the flashes of brilliance, and in the end, they got the result. And now, the 19-time champions are 15 points clear of Manchester City in the title race.
man of the match?
Ryan Giggs (10 votes)
Nani (6 votes)
Rafael (53 votes)
69 total votes