Three Manchester Utd goals in eight minutes end QPR dreams
Victory puts Man U top of the table, piling pressure on City to get three points from Chelsea game
Manchester United climbed back to pole position in the Premier League thanks to a 3-1 win over Queen’s Park Rangers, piling the pressure on rivals Manchester City who are two points behind and must beat Chelsea this afternoon if they are to regain top spot.
Rangers arrived at Old Trafford under new manager Harry Redknapp, and the visitors got the first goal when Jamie Mackie put them ahead on 52 minutes.
The United faithful couldn’t believe it. For the ninth time this season in 13 top-flight matches Man United had conceded the first goal. But the setback merely brought out the best in the hosts and they quashed QPR’s hopes of their first win of the season with a deadly three-goal blitz that began on 64 minutes.
First Jonny Evans headed home Wayne Rooney’s corner. Then, four minutes later, the England striker swung in another cross for Darren Fletcher to put United ahead. It was a perfect way for Fletcher to celebrate his return to Premier League action after missing the last 12 months through illness.
Javier Hernandez then put the match to bed on 72 minutes when he picked up a pass from Anderson and fired past Rangers’ goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
“We only played for 10 minutes and those 10 minutes were brilliant,” said Alex Ferguson. (Actually it was eight, but who’s counting?) Admitting that United’s habit of conceding the first goal was a “concern”, the manager added: “Then we got down to our business and played with speed and determination. Victories like this when you're not really at your best are always important.”
Harry Redknapp, confirmed officially as Mark Hughes’s replacement on Saturday morning, won’t take charge of his first game until Tuesday’s match at Sunderland. Nonetheless he was present at Old Trafford and had this to say afterwards: “The players at QPR have not performed to their potential. There are some good players here… [but] the players have to be at it, the buck stops with them.”
Rangers remain rooted to the bottom of the table on four points with Southampton above them on eight points and Reading on nine after losing 3-2 at Wigan, where Jordi Gomez scored a hat-trick for the hosts.
Meanwhile Aston Villa gained a valuable point against Arsenal to move out of the relegation zone. In a desperately drab goalless encounter at Villa Park, the highlight was an Andreas Weimann goal that was ruled offside for Villa.
Other than that there was precious little to warm the cockles, and the Arsenal fans made their displeasure known by directing a chant of “You don't know what you're doing" at manager Arsene Wenger when he replaced Olivier Giroud with Francis Coquelin with two minutes remaining.
Arsenal now lie in sixth spot, ten points behind United. Asked about the chants, Wenger responded: “Is it hurtful? Look, I have managed for 30 years at the top level and I have to convince you I can manage the team… I do my job and do my best for the club. I leave it to you to judge. I try to be as good as I can be.”
Elsewhere West Bromwich Albion’s scintillating season continued with a 4-2 victory at Sunderland. The win moves the Baggies into third spot, two points above Chelsea, after they notched their fourth consecutive league victory, something they last achieved in 1980.
Zoltan Gera, Shane Long, Romelu Lukaku and Marc-Antoine Fortune scored West Brom’s goals, and even their notoriously downcast manager Steve Clarke was in chipper mood afterwards. “The players deserve all the credit," he said. "They've worked really hard and made a lot of people sit up and take notice. The Albion fans can enjoy this spell.”
Asked if they can also start looking forward to playing in Europe next season, Clarke slipped back into his more restrained self, saying: “To talk about European football would be folly. We'll keep our feet on the ground."
Norwich’s decent run continued as they held Everton to a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park. The Canaries, who last week beat Manchester United 1-0, salvaged a point on 90 minutes when Sebastien Bassong equalised after Steven Naismith’s first-half strike for the Toffees. The result leaves Everton in fifth spot, one point above Arsenal.
In Saturday’s only other game, a goal from Charlie Adam was enough to give Stoke a 1-0 victory over Fulham at the Britannia Stadium.