The Premier League table is an emphatic sight on Sunday morning. Fifteen points separate Manchester United and Manchester City, largely because a million miles separated United from Queens Park Rangers on Saturday afternoon. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men do not look like they are in the mood to surrender another championship. QPR look like they have already succumbed to their fate.
The statistics are equally categorical, United have now won more games, scored more goals and accumulated more points after 27 matches than in any other Premier League season. "Yeah, it is a good position, but you know the way we approach it is to win our next game," dead-panned Ferguson after the game. Losing the title last season was no joke for the Scot, this campaign has been a forceful comeback.
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Ryan Giggs, as we know, has been around for all of those campaigns and more. Ferguson spoke of a goal the Welshman scored here 19 years ago. This correspondent was in the stand that day; I was twelve years old and John Major was Prime Minister. Manchester City finished 16th that year and United won the title. Giggs keeps on going.
This wasn't United’s best performance and it didn't need to be. There were no bookings in this game and very few fouls, both sides treated it like a formality at times. Queens Park Rangers are a living example that money can’t buy you happiness. It doesn't look like it’ll be buying them Premier League survival either. Redknapp has about as much chance as saving the economy as he does the Rs. But if he does, perhaps he should run for PM next time.
United had leaders all over the pitch and Michael Carrick’s season has been one to savour, not for the first time this campaign he completed the most outfield passes here. Being granted Roy Keane’s No. 16 shirt upon his arrival eight years ago has never helped him, but he has held his course and United need him nowadays. He steadies the ship and composure is crucial in potentially slippery fixtures such as these.
United were equally assured in defence as Nemanja Vidic, his elbows and his chums, kept everything QPR had at bay. United’s defenders were sufficiently untroubled to venture up the pitch on occasion and still maintain discipline at the back. It was on one such foray that Rafael scored the opener.
His strike, a wicked effort from the edge of the area, was reminiscent of the goals of Rivelino and Jairzinho 20 years before his birth. Children will be trying to emulate it on playgrounds all week and it was a timely reminder that this United side is edging towards classic accolades itself. From their current position in the league, they can only really beat themselves. Ferguson is aware of this, and he will be doing everything in his power to avoid complacency as the season closes out.
A couple of players had off days here, Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young have played better, but others stepped unto the breach to win the game. There are concerns that Robin van Persie may have damaged himself running into a camera, but it didn't look too serious.
Redknapp’s face was a solemn sight afterwards as he went to face his chairman. "Good chat with Harry on the future come what may,” said Tony Fernandes subsequently. Good chat, maybe. Optimistic? I doubt it.
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