The FourFourTwo Preview: QPR vs Man United
QPR are good at home, United rubbish away. An away win it is, then.
- Burnley 2-1 QPR (Prem)
- QPR 0-3 Sheff Utd (FAC)
- QPR 1-1 Swansea (Prem)
- QPR 0-0 Palace (Prem)
- Arsenal 2-1 QPR (Prem)
MAN UNITED FORM
- Man Utd 0-1 So’ton (Prem)
- Yeovil 0-2 Man Utd (FAC)
- Stoke 1-1 Man Utd (Prem)
- Spurs 0-0 Man Utd (Prem)
- Man Utd 3-1 Newcastle (Prem)
We all know that QPR are dreadful away from Loftus Road. To reach mid-January without picking up a point on your travels is pretty pathetic, and, if the reaction to the defeat at Burnley is anything to go by, the Hoops’ travelling support’s patience is growing ever thinner.
True, their home form is saving them – they’ve only lost twice in W12 – but Harry Redknapp’s men have hovered around the relegation zone like the beguiling smell of a long since out-of-date kipper.
Some would argue some of their performances this season have been about as fresh, too, but we won’t be drawn into speculation.
Where there is Charlie Austin, though, there is hope. Thirteen goals in 19 Premier League games is, whisper it, England form.
He may not be the easiest on the eye, but the one-time bricklayer has scored goals at every level and must stay fit for QPR to stand a chance not only on Saturday, but the wider relegation battle. If he can do that, why can’t he force his way into Roy Hodgson’s plans?
Though you would make Manchester United favourites on Saturday, the Red Devils’ recent record isn’t all that better than their hosts’. United have won once in their last five games, and only twice on their travels – albeit at Arsenal and Southampton.
Though the defence is increasingly adapting to Louis van Gaal’s favoured back three, it’s further forward that United have gone flat.
Radamel Falcao didn’t make the 18-man squad for the 1-0 home defeat to Southampton last weekend, the Dutchman preferring James Wilson’s greater dynamism from the bench and playing Angel Di Maria as a second striker to Robin van Persie, who has one goal in five games.
Not since a man-of-the-match Boxing Day display against Newcastle has Wayne Rooney dominated a game from his deeper midfield role.
That said, United’s November and December form of six straight wins served notice of a team that has the talent to finish in the top four, Van Gaal’s minimum requirement after a summer’s heavy investment.
Loftus Road may not be the easiest place to visit, but if Michael Carrick can control the game and Juan Mata lock pick, United should win.
Rio Ferdinand should recover from a groin injury to face his former club, but full-back Yun Suk-young and midfield warrior Sandro are still a couple of weeks from fitness.
United, meanwhile, are still waiting on the results of Van Persie’s scan on the ankle he damaged against Southampton. Rafael may feature, but Ashley Young’s torn hamstring definitely keeps him out. He’ll be getting lonely in the hitherto well stocked United physio room.
Key battle: Charlie Austin vs Chris Smalling
Though much improved, United’s defence remains the definitive barometer of their game. At its heart is Smalling who lurches from calm assurance to jittery mess even within the same move, let alone a 90-minute game. The raw materials are there, it’s the application that is wanting.
Against Austin, the former Fulham defender’s concentration will be put to the test. The QPR man doesn’t participate all that much in his side’s build-up play – his actions in the final third against Burnley comprised a handful of passes and the odd attempted dribble – but give him a sight of goal and he’ll shoot, often on target. The weakest part of Smalling’s game, he must be switched on for 90 minutes.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- United 4-0 QPR (PL, Sep 14)
- QPR 0-2 United (PL, Feb 13)
- United 3-1 QPR (PL, Nov 12)
- United 2-0 QPR (PL, Apr 12)
- QPR 0-2 United (PL, Dec 11)
If midweek reports are to be believed, Redknapp has one game to save his job, with chairman Tony Fernandes growing tired of the excuses, particularly following fan altercations at Burnley.
The rumour suggests it could be Tim Sherwood who would replace the 67-year-old, should he get the boot. Good job it’s only English football’s most successful team his team’s playing, then, eh?
Much of the United talk over the last few weeks has been of contracts.
Van Gaal says keeper David De Gea is close to signing a fresh deal, but Van Persie, Smalling, Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Rafael have only 18 months to go and the talk coming out of the club is that, er, there are no talks. With the January transfer slamming open, another player overhaul could well be on the cards.
Facts and figures
- United have lost just 1 of their last 19 Premier League visits to London (W11 D7 L1).
- QPR have allowed more shots on target against them than any other team in the Premier League (118).
- QPR are the only team yet to score a goal in the opening 15 mins of a Premier League game this season.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
United to have too much quality going forward. 1-2.