They’ll have to overcome a Rangers side who are desperate to put some clear distance between themselves and the bottom three over the festive period. Neil Warnocks side have been in poor form in the last month losing four of their last six and picking up only one win. Their narrow defeat at Liverpool last week saw them outplayed for a majority of the game whilst the 1-1 draw at home to West Brom a fortnight ago highlighted their continued problems in front of goal. The R’s have scored goals in fits and bursts during the campaign with the profligacy costing them vital points. One win and four draws at home is hardly the record of a side that wants to remain in the Premier Division past this season. Those four draws could easily have been turned into victories had it not been for their shoddy finishing. Summer signing Jay Bothroyd has scored only twice since his free transfer from Cardiff whilst Jamie Mackie is still finding his way back to full match sharpness following his injury lay off leaving Heidar Helguson as the clubs chief net buster. The Icelandic striker has performed admirably up front for Warnocks men but he too can be wasteful in front of goal. Whilst they may have gone unpunished to far wasting chances against Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils will be at their own peril.
United were at their best last week smashing four goals past a hapless Wolves side to cure any lingering hangovers from Champions League exit in Basel just days earlier. The win saw them close the gap on rivals City to only two points and put them right back into contention to reclaim their Premier League crown. Ferguson will be delighted to see Wayne Rooney rediscover his scoring tough with the England striker scoring his first goal since September along with Nani who put in arguably his best performance of the season to date. They did however receive a blow on Tuesday with the news Darren Fletcher is taking a break from football due to health reasons further depleting United’s options in the centre of midfield. It’s been a problem position for Ferguson all season with Paul Scholes’ retirement and Tom Cleverley’s injury seeing the engine room shorn of it’s creative juices. Michael Carrick has stepped into fill the void but the loss of Fletchers energy and commitment is sure to see the Red Devil’s boss dip his fingers into the transfer market. For now he’ll have to rely on the likes or Carrick and Ryan Giggs to provide the inspiration to overcome a QPR side they haven’t met in the league since 1996.
QPR – 12th
Last Five: Lost 1-0 v Liverpool (A), Drew 1-1 v West Brom (H), Lost 2-1 v Norwich (A), Won 3-2 v Stoke (A), Lost 3-2 v Man City (H)
Potential Starting X11: 24. R. Cerny 18. L. Young 6. D. Gabbidon 3. C. Hill 13. A. Traore 11. A. Faurlin 4. S. Derry 7. J. Barton[C]* 10. J. Mackie 32. S. Wright-Phillips 22. H. Helguson
Injury News: Warnock is still without key players Anton Ferdinand, Adel Taarabt, Paddy Kenny, Matt Connolly, Kieron Dyer and Rob Hulse who will all out for the visit of United.
Key Player: Joey Barton
If ever QPR needed a player for a big game occasion then Barton is the man they can count on. Aside from his fiery temper the former Newcastle is a brilliant footballer with his tenacity in the centre of the park taking on a greater importance in the midst of United’s midfield problems. Should Barton gain control of the middle then Rangers could provide a few shocks come the final whistle.
Match Fact: QPR host United in the Premier League for the first time since 1996 but you’d have to go all the way back to 1989 for last victory over the Red Devils on home turf.
Manchester United −2nd
Last Five: Won 4-1 v Wolves (H), Won 1-0 v Aston Villa (A), Drew 1-1 v Newcastle (H), Won 1-0 v Swansea (A), Won 1-0 v Sunderland (H)
Potential Starting X11: 1. D. de Gea 12. C. Smalling 6. J. Evans 5. R. Ferdinand 3. P. Evra 18. A. Young 16. M. Carrick 4. P. Jones 17. Nani 19. D. Wellbeck 10. W. Rooney*
Injury News: Darren Fletcher’s break from football means United are without nine first team players with Nemanja Vidic, Javier Hernandez, Dimitar Berbatov Anderson, Rafael, Fabio, Tom Cleverley and Michael Owen all out.
Key Player: Wayne Rooney
After rediscovering his scoring tough against Wolves the England striker appears to have his hunger for goals back and will be eager to find the net again at Loftus Road. Rooney hadn’t scored since September before bagging a brace at Old Trafford last week but it’s his creativity that will be important to United on Sunday as they go through a midfield injury crisis.
Match Fact: United have never lost against QPR in the Premier League winning six out of their eight top flight meetings.
Last Time at Loftus Road
Premier League 16 March 1996
QPR 1-1 Manchester United
Irwin OG (63)
Rangers struggle at home and have bagged only one win at Loftus Road since the beginning of the season. Finding the net has also be an issue and they’ll need to take their chances on Sunday against a ruthless United side desperate to regain control from rivals City. The Red Devils have been in superb form of late and should secure a comfortable victory in the capital.