United turned in a devastating display of incisive attacking football, which might have yielded a resounding win over Queens Park Rangers, but the Reds can still reflect on an impressive victory secured by goals from Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick.
Rooney headed home the opening goal inside a minute at Loftus Road and Carrick added a fine solo goal early in the second period, and only the woodwork and some inspired goalkeeping from Radek Cerny prevented the Reds from running up an eye-catching scoreline.
From front to back, the Reds were impressive, but it was in central areas where the champions most exuded authority. Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand provided a rock-solid defensive core, Carrick and Phil Jones shone in tandem in midfield and Rooney oozed class throughout.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s hand was strengthened by the return of Dimitar Berbatov and Chicharito, yet the United manager opted against shuffling and named the same line-up that overpowered Wolves last weekend.
Among the highlights of the victory over Mick McCarthy’s side were the return to goalscoring form of Wayne Rooney and an incisive display of wingplay from Antonio Valencia. Both parties combined after just 52 seconds at Loftus Road to give United a dream start.
Having nicked possession, Valencia redirected the ball to Rooney and raced onto the striker’s headed return pass before arcing a magnificent cross into the path of the onrushing Rooney. Though the striker had to contend with the attentions of Rangers defender Matthew Connolly, he managed to fling himself and redirect the ball inside Cerny’s post to register United’s quickest goal of the season so far.
The visitors’ red-hot start almost yielded further reward before three minutes were up. Nani pounced on a loose ball, exchanged passes with Rooney and fed Danny Welbeck, whose scuffed effort was blocked by Cerny.
Aside from a Heidar Helguson header that drifted just wide, QPR’s riposte was one of physicality. A strong challenge by Connolly on Rooney went unpunished – a decision that prompted Rio Ferdinand to earn a caution for dissent – before Danny Gabbidon joined him in the book for a lunge on Valencia.
Unruffled, United continued to forge openings. Rooney released Welbeck to finish neatly, though it was contentiously deemed offside, before the Reds enjoyed a spell of pressure around the half-hour that should have killed the contest.
First, after Welbeck had beaten Cerny to Nani’s corner, Evans nodded onto the top of the crossbar from inside the six-yard box. Phil Jones was then thwarted in a one-on-one encounter with Cerny, who then heroically flung up an arm to deny Valencia from close range. From the subsequent corner, Evans’ header was hoofed off the line by Alejandro Faurlin.
The danger of creating and spurning such a procession of chances was underlined by a rally from the hosts late in the half. Though Evans and Ferdinand coped admirably with the aerial onslaught, they and their colleagues could only watch with baited breath as Jay Bothroyd’s marvellous cross rolled across De Gea’s six-yard box without conversion.
The second period began in bizarre fashion, as referee Webb kicked-off proceedings before Danny Gabbidon has retaken the field. United looked to expose the numerical advantage, but Rooney could only fire straight at Cerny before Gabbidon was waved into the fray.
United’s attacking play continued to threaten a second goal, and it was duly delivered by Carrick’s first strike of the campaign. Pouncing on an errant pass from Joey Barton, the midfielder surged into a yawning gap in the hosts’ half and slotted a low finish past Cerny.
The Czech might have lamented his failure to keep out Carrick’s effort, though he may well have been fooled by the midfielder’s refusal to even glance at the goal before shooting. Soon enough, however, Cerny redeemed himself with a spectacular save to fend away Welbeck’s curling effort. Rooney then jabbed over as he tried to redirect Evans’ stabbed effort, before Jones curled a superb low shot against the base of Cerny’s post.
In a bid to improve his side’s fortunes, Neil Warnock introduced Adel Taarabt and DJ Campbell from the bench, and the latter wastefully spooned the former’s superb cross over the bar from close range almost immediately.
That was one of the rare occasions in which the hosts managed to pierce United’s imperious backline, providing further evidence that the Reds have heeded Sir Alex’s insistence on shoring up defensively after a cavalier opening to the season. Now allied to that familiar attacking swagger – and a run of six wins and a draw in seven league games – United are building a promising momentum at a key stage of the season.
Glory Glory ManUnited!!<3