Manchester United beat Queens Park Rangers 2-0 at Old Trafford to go eight points clear at the top of the table. Manchester City’s defeat to Arsenal later in the day confirmed that United now have an eight point cushion with just six games to go. QPR had not travelled to United, in the league, since 1995 – when William Prunier graced the Old Trafford turf. United won the game 2-1 with Andy Cole and Ryan Giggs getting on the scoresheet, with Danny Dichio scoring for the visitors. This time round it was Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes who settled the tie for United. Here we discuss the talking points of the game and welcome comments from both United and QPR fans.
Shaun Derry and that penalty
I can’t imagine any red would defend the penalty decision that was given for a challenge on Ashley Young by QPR captain Shaun Derry. Firstly, Young was offside:
First of all, the ‘assistant referee’ is out of position and should be inline with Taiwo (who is near enough in line with Onuoha). He is looking straight across the line and must see that Young is offside. If the decision is given, Young will not be played in by Rooney to win the penalty.
In regard to the penalty, it is irrelevant as QPR should have won a freekick for Ashley Young being in an offside position, however I would argue that this was a big talking point of the whole match due to the decision give the penalty and the subsequent sending off – which ended the match as a spectacle. I think Ashley Young dived for the penalty following minimal contact by Shaun Derry. Derry’s arm is outreached and touches Young’s side:
Young obviously feels the touch and decides to go to ground theatrically to win the penalty:
The penalty is award and Derry is send off. Both poor decisions, but it shouldn’t have got that far as United’s number eighteen was offside when the initial ball was played by Rooney.
Ashley Young wins a penalty
In the minutes that followed Derry’s red card and Rooney’s penalty yesterday, the reaction of former players on Twitter was fascinating. Young was apparently doing what any pro would do and try to gain an advantage for his team by winning a penalty. I can understand that point of view completely but I can’t necessarily agree with it. That said, I don’t think Young dived – to me, a dive is when a player goes down when there is no contact (think Downing vs United earlier this season). What Young did was to ‘go down easily’ having anticipated what was going to happen. Off balance having turned, Young was already starting to fall when Derry did make the tiniest of contact, enough for Young to ensure he went down and Derry was sent off. At the time I described it as “soft” – it could have easily not been given and I doubt many would have been able to complain.
Having given the penalty, the decision to send Derry off was the correct one. In fact, from the referee’s angle even if Derry had made no contact with Young’s shirt whatsoever, it would have looked like he did. Had Young simply fallen because he’d lost balance (nearly did happen), Lee Mason’s line of sight would have still made it look like Derry had done something. Hard to blame Mason or his linesman for this one. Incredibly harsh on QPR and a somewhat unnecessary appeal for a penalty by Young (he was off-balance so would have fallen anyway).
I’m not sure that QPR would have gone on to get anything from the game even with 11 men and without that penalty awarded – Hughes had set them up incredibly negatively and in fact going down to 10 men spurred them on and seemed to make United lose focus.
For me, the real crime yesterday wasn’t the red card or Ashley Young’s poor but successful attempt at winning the penalty, but the linesman’s failure to put his flag up for an offside decision against Young in the build-up. Young, clearly a yard offside was somehow played on by the linesman who, if anything was too far ahead of play, in line with Young rather than the last defender. If he gets that decision correct, the rest doesn’t follow. As it was, a decision wrongly went in our favour to add to the various conspiracy theories.
Patrick Vieira thought brining back Paul Scholes was a ‘sign of weakness’. Not too sure I understand bringing back a football genius that should only stop playing when he physically can’t walk anymore is a sign of weakness, but the results since his return against Manchester City in January indicate that it was a great move by Sir Alex Ferguson and Paul Scholes himself. Scholes spoke in the week about how much he enjoys playing compared to coaching and his MOTM performance against QPR backed up that claim.
United have won every Premier League game since his return, expect for the 3-3 draw with Chelsea, where United were three goals down and fought back. He has scored in three goals since his return:
There is nothing more to say about Paul Scholes. His vision, finishing and knack of keeping the ball has been well document over the past twenty years. He may not be the box to box player that we once adored in in the mid to late 90s and well into the 21st century, but his influence and experience has been vital to United in the second half of the season.
8 points clear
Following United’s win over QPR, City went to Arsenal knowing a defeat would make their challenge of catching United even harder. City came up against a side hungry to regain third and Arsenal put in a brilliant performance to win 1-0 thanks to a late Arteta strike – Balotelli was shown a red card late on (not quite karma for a failure to send him off earlier in the game though). It means that with six games left to play, United need to win four of them to guarantee the title will stay in the red half of Manchester.
Next up is Wigan away midweek followed by Villa then Everton at home. Should United take maximum points from those three games they’d be a minimum of 11 points ahead of City when they kick off away to Wolves on the 22nd April knowing a failure to win their would gift United the title. With City starting to lose their heads and momentum, it’s looking more and more likely that either United will win the league at Eastlands on the 30th April or will be given a guard of honour by City as the already-crowned champions.
That said, this title is far from won yet, the games coming up in the next seven days could see United kick off against Everton just two points clear. Nevertheless, the swing of power has been incredible – United had made up more than 11 points over City and even now have a better goal difference having been more than 10 goals worse off than them. It’s a huge achievement for Fergie and the squad, helped by a tightened defence that’s kept 6 clean sheets in the last 8 home games compared to just 2 clean sheets in the first 8 home league games.
Finally, it’s starting to become a case of ‘when will United win it?’ as opposed to ‘will United win it?’.
The sending off ruined the game and ended the match as a contest. United would have most probably won the game over the course of the ninety minutes, but got a massive helping hand from the officials on the day. Wayne Rooney converted the penalty well and United went onto dominate the match, as you would have expected with QPR being down to ten men. Danny Welbeck and Rafael missed sitters, although Paddy Kenny should be pleased with his impressive performance on the day. Valencia, who has been in fine form of late, didn’t get passed Taiwo too many times – but Scholes and Carrick, the latter unlucky not to convert a thunderous drive in the second half, were top class.
Manchester United travel to Wigan Athletic on Wednesday in their next Premier League tie.