Following a surprise defeat last weekend, Man Utd will be confident of reasserting their title credentials when they host struggling QPR at Old Trafford on Saturday (3pm GMT).
Manchester United lost 1-0 at Norwich last Saturday, ending a run of five consecutive Premier League victories that had elevated them to the top of the table.
It was a strangely subdued performance from Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, who struggled to penetrate a well-organised Norwich backline. When they did, goalkeeper John Ruddy was in superb form.
Norwich can stake claim to being just one of two Premier League teams to prevent United from scoring so far this season in what has otherwise been a campaign marked by the potency of the Reds’ attack.
Man Utd have, to date, scored 29 times in 12 league fixtures, four more than any other team in the division. Such prolificness has yielded nine victories, five of which were achieved despite conceding the first goal of the match. Two of their three defeats have come in the only matches in which they have failed to score.
A cursory glance at United’s squad is enough to see why they rarely have problems finding the back of the net. Robin Van Persie has hit the ground running since his £24 million summer move from Arsenal, scoring eight goals to date. He is just one of numerous offensive options Ferguson has at his disposal, options that also include Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck.
Ferguson’s defence has been less secure, with a myriad of injuries rarely allowing him to select a consistent back four. A knee problem is still keeping Nemanja Vidic out of action, but others are slowly returning to the first team picture. Chris Smalling has been feeling his way back to full fitness in the last couple of weeks. Tuesday’s Champions League defeat to Galatasaray saw the return of Phil Jones, who got a solid 90 minutes under his belt after a couple of months on the sidelines.
With United already qualified for the knockout stages, Ferguson elected to rest a number of regular first team players in midweek and should therefore have a fresh squad raring to go on Saturday. In addition to those rested, David de Gea, Johnny Evans and Wayne Rooney are all expected to be contention after recovering from their various ailments, leaving just Shinji Kagawa and Nani (in addition to Vidic) as injury absentees.
Little has gone right for Ferguson’s opposite number Mark Hughes this season. The Queens Park Rangers’ manager will take his team to Old Trafford with his primary recognised striker, Bobby Zamora, and former-United midfielder Ji-Sung Park both missing through injury.
Hughes has overseen a dreadful start to the season for the West London side and had been one of the favourites to win the Premier League sack race before Chelsea’s knee-jerk decision to part company with Roberto Di Matteo relieved him of that potential indignity. Even so, if QPR continue their current form it can surely only be a matter of time before owner Tony Fernandes decides a change is required.
Hughes saved the Hoops from relegation last season, but Fernandes, having signed off on £32 million of new recruits and a number of high salaries since the Welshman joined in mid-January, could be forgiven for wanting a better return on his investment.
QPR are bottom of the league with just four points. They are yet to win a match in 12 attempts, have scored just nine goals (the joint-worst in the league), conceded 23 (the second-worst) and worst of all, look utterly rudderless. There is little rhyme or reason to their tactical approach and there is a distinct lack of effort and application from the players.
The Loftus Road faithful were quick to show their disapproval of a lifeless performance in the 3-1 defeat at home to Southampton last weekend. Chants of ‘you’re only here for the money’ rang out around the stadium and the substitution of heavily-salaried summer recruit Jose Bosingwa was met with widespread approbation.
Hughes has talked of returning to basics in the build-up to Saturday’s match. The likes of Jamie Mackie and Shaun Derry, stalwarts of the club’s promotion campaign back in 2010/11, are likely to be drafted back into the starting 11 to add grit to a side that has been too soft. With defeat at Old Trafford all but inevitable, his side can at least hope to take some pride from a battling performance.
Man Utd v QPR Betting Tips Advice
United are the clear favourites for this match against a horribly out of form QPR side who have lost five of their six away matches and are conceding goals with alarming regularity.
There is little value in betting on a straight United victory at a best price of 2/9 with Coral, but with the margin of victory likely to be comfortable there is wriggle room to get involved in the Asian Handicap market.
- Bet on Manchester United -2 on the Asian Handicap @ 10/11 with Pinnacle or at 9/10 with BetVictor. If United win by two goals your stake is returned, while any victory by a greater margin sees the bet win.
- Rooney scored home and away against QPR last season and will be chomping at the bit after missing recent matches through illness. Back Wayne Rooney to score at any time @ best odds of 11/10 at BetVictor.