United v QPR - Just Try To Hit The Target, Lads!
It wasn't the most enjoyable ever football experience, to be honest. I understand that QPR home in the Carling Cup 4th round is not a very attractive fixture but there was very little atmosphere inside Old Trafford and the game itself... suffice to say that it only came to life after the first goal.
United lined up in a 4-3-3 with two wingers, Park and Nani flanking Tevez. Now I think this a brilliant line-up if we are set up to soak up the pressure and trying to hit the opposition on the break. But against a team that parks the bus...
What happened was all too predictable. United, thanks to the great work of Possebon, Anderson and to a lesser extent Gibson, absolutely dominated. QPR barely crossed the halfway line, did not register a single effort on or off target until the middle of the second half - but they kept us at arm length for a long time.
Neat one-twos, clever interplays, one-touch football - 25 or 30 yards from goal it really came to nothing. Tevez did not want to be isolated so he came deep more and more frequently so our 4-3-3 soon turned into a 4-6-0.
Now of course the gulf in quality was all too obvious so even these slightly flawed tactics produced chances. Oh yes. And we missed all, one by one as our shooting was frustratingly wayward. I mean at least try to hit the bleedin' target, force the keeper to make a save! When we did it almost paid dividends: near the end of the first half Nani's effort was spilled by Cerny into the path of Park but the keeper quickly smothered the rebound and spared himself the embarassment.
Fergie made no changes at the interval, leaving Manucho and Welbeck on the bench but it looked like that his words had the desired effect as there was definitely more penetration in United's football in the second 45 minutes. Luck - and finishing ability - deserted us again though: Park smashed a wicked shot against the crossbar and Cerny denied our forwards time and time again.
And there was of course Anderson. By and large I thought he was brilliant. Energy-sapping runs throughout, great passes, he absolutely dominated the midfield. But I'm now beginning to seriously believe that he can go on for 10 more years at United without ever scoring a goal. Again, he missed two chances when it was easier to score...
Possebon was tiring in the second half and we were delighted when he made way for young Danny Welbeck who caused a lot of anxiety for QPR with his clever runs and technical ability. He kept the ball well and distributed it well - oh, and practically won us the game.
He was slid in by the outstanding Park (Man of the Match at the Emirates I thought) where he was crudely felled by Peter Ramage's late, late sliding tackle. It was a definite penalty which Carlos Tevez, with one of those highly unorthodox run-ups, duly converted.
The game came to life as QPR threw caution to the wind and it immediately transpired that fielding Gary Neville as a central defender was no wiser than fielding him at all at the Emirates. He was way off the pace and it was his fault when QPR scored - from an offside position, fortunately.
But of course we finally had the space we were previously denied and United started to launch flowing counter-attacks. We should have buried them but missed the chances (of course) and in the end found ourselves praying when a brilliant break - we managed to lose the ball at the corner flag and 15 seconds later they were at our box - found Ledesma on the edge of the area but he fired wide.
That was it: United richly deserved the win, no doubt but it raised many questions again. The most important is: why can't we hit the target when it really matters? It is now absolutely baffling. Van Nistelrooy is out until January, can't we enlist him to do some finishing courses for our players?