Manchester United beat Queens Park Rangers 2-0 today, in a score that appeared to suggest a relatively routine victory.
Their victory was anything but comfortable as United laboured in the first half, while several key men under-performed in a system that is looking increasingly alien to Louis van Gaal’s men.
After leaving the Colombian superstar Radamel Falcao out of his squad last weekend, United’s manager fielded him as the lone striker, with Angel Di Maria playing in behind the front man.
Poor first half
With Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick playing in a midfield three, the Red Devils once again started the game in the increasingly unpopular 3-5-2 formation.
The result of this was that they created very little in the first half. Falcao was quiet, although he should have scored when presented with his club’s only real chance of the opening 45 minutes. Instead he struck his shot straight at Robert Green.
The Red Devils' record signing Angel Di Maria could not get into the game and produced a performance which mirrored last week’s disappointing showing at Old Trafford. There was no overwhelming pressure from QPR’s midfielders, yet still Van Gaal’s men produced little.
To compound matters Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Rooney’s passing invited pressure from the likes of Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora, although they too struggled to create anything fruitful in the first half.
The result of all this was a dreadful half of football from both clubs.
Second half improvement
That changed in the second half as Louis Van Gaal replaced Mata for Marouane Fellaini at half time and Evans with young James Wilson just before the hour.
Crucially he also switched the formation to 4-4-2 and United’s fortunes instantly changed. Rooney played Valencia in who put in a cross, which Fellaini instantly controlled and shot past Green via a deflection.
From then on QPR pressed to try and find an equaliser, although David De Gea, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind did well to control the London club’s attacks.
In this formation United look more assured at the back and more dangerous in forward positions. Wilson frequently broke beyond QPR’s defence and did his best to set up the extremely quiet Falcao on two occasions.
The first time Steven Caulker got a faint touch on the ball which prevented a certain goal for the Colombian. On the second occasion Wilson’s cross was a yard ahead of his strike partner.
As QPR became more desperate in attack, they were easier to open up. In stoppage time Di Maria found the exciting Wilson who finished well after his initial shot was saved by Green.