One team 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League. The other 7 points adrift of the drop zone. Yet Manchester United are 1.61 to win at Loftus Road on Saturday? Here’s why I think that’s a banker.
Manchester United are all-but Premier League champions; a 12-point lead with 12 games remaining. After losing a big lead last season and conceding the title to local neighbours Manchester City, Sir Alex Ferguson has said he will not let his team lose concentration this season. And I trust the 12-time Premier League winner on that.
The next biggest game for Manchester United is their Champions League second leg at home to Real Madrid on Tuesday 5 March. They play Norwich City the Saturday before in the Premier League and I can see that being a game they play a weakened side. Therefore meaning Ferguson fields his strongest unit in this one to at least maintain that dozen point lead.
A 0-0 at home to Norwich City followed by a 4-1 thrashing at Queens Park Rangers may have killed off all hope for Harry Redknapp’s side staying up. They were poor defensively last time out and they have barely threatened in attack since replacing Mark Hughes. Or even with the Welsh manager as QPR have scored a league-low 19 goals.
Manchester United have won 12 of their last 14 in the Premier League, with only Swansea City and Tottenham Hotspur preventing them from winning. Both ended in 1-1 draws away from home. They remain in both the Champions League and FA Cup also. The defence has improved, keeping back-to-back clean sheets in the league (vs Fulham and Everton), whilst they have not conceded more than 1 goal in a game since Boxing Day.
Queens Park Rangers have just 2 wins all season (vs Fulham and Chelsea) and are winless in their last 5, despite drawing 4 of those. Since Shaun Wright-Phillips’ winner against the run of play at Stamford Bridge, Harry Redknapp’s side have scored just twice in five games (Loic Remy one-on-one vs West Ham and Bobby Zamora’s consolation vs Swansea after a poor parry from Michel Vorm). They have looked woeful going forward too. They have lost 8 of 13 on the road.
Key Players for Manchester United
Robin van Persie – the Dutch striker leads the Premier League with 19 goals and Queens Park Rangers are 1 of 4 sides he has not scored against in the league this season. Should he fail to do so this weekend they will be the first to have played Manchester United twice and not allowed Robin van Persie to score. Both he and Wayne Rooney are odds-on to score any time with the bookmakers: https://sports.bwin.com/en/sports/4/betting/football
Wayne Rooney – The England striker has scored 8 goals in his last 8 Premier League outings. Expecting Manchester United to have the majority of possession in this game and a lot of it in the Queens Park Rangers half, expect Wayne Rooney to be heavily involved. Whether that be coming back to collect the ball in midfield, driving at the defence or shooting from long range.
Shinji Kagawa – Potentially a surprise match winner for me. The young Japanese playmaker hasn’t had the best of debut seasons in English football, hindered by an injury at the start of the season. However, the former Borussia Dortmund man has been playing recently and exceeds with quick and short passes. So look out for him to cause problems with some triangle football around Chris Samba who isn’t the most mobile and agile of centre backs.
Weakness for Queens Park Rangers
Shaun Derry – Queens Park Rangers fans seem to praise him. But I think that’s more out of sympathy. The ageing midfielder may have been impressive during their promotion season in the second tier two seasons ago but I’m not buying him as good enough at this level. He’s been playing recently so I’m guessing he’s going to start this one. He’ll be one of the players I expect Tom Cleverley and Shinji Kagawa to pass their way past.
Armand Traore – With Fabio ineligible to play, expect the former Arsenal player to fit in at left back as he did a fortnight ago at Swansea. Don’t be surprised to hear a mention of a certain 8-2 defeat either. Antonio Valencia got the better of him that day and despite the Ecuadorian not being in any particular great form, look for he and Rafael to get the better of Armand Traore in this one to create chances for the likes of van Persie and go from the right wing.
Clint Hill – Was sold a good dummy by Luis Suarez at the start of the year, Clint Hill is going to have a difficult game against Robin van Persie. Don’t be surprised if Danny Welbeck starts up front either with neither centre back defending well against pacey strikers running at them. Except Hill to have a torrid game, committing fouls if he doesn’t have good enough protection in front of him.
I cannot see past anything but a Manchester United win here. Surprised they’re above halves right now but perhaps that will drop below provided Sir Alex Ferguson puts his strongest team out, as I expect. You can currently get them around evens at -1 on the Asian Handicap and odds-against at -1.5 which are both very attractive bets.