Reaction to the QPR game…

by Sam Peoples

Rooney celebrates as Carrick slots in his first goal since January 2010 . Photo: Dylan Martinez

1. The best team performance since Chelsea. That was the most complete, all-round quality 90 minutes that I have seen United play since we beat the Rentboys 3-1 at home in September. To pull the performances against Wolves and QPR out following the humiliating drop-out from the Champions League is a testament to the character that a team of champions possesses. The football on display on Sunday was neat, fluid and extremely dynamic – QPR struggled to shut us out and we bagged 18 shots on goal, our highest number this season. From midfield runs, crosses and shots fired in, we were finding it easy to create a plethora of goalscoring opportunities and if anything can be rued from the performance, it is the fact that we didn’t win by more. Danny Welbeck had an onside goal ruled off, Phil Jones hit the post and Jonny Evans hit both the post and the crossbar on separate occasions.

Jones and Carrick - the new midfield supremo. Photo: Alistar Grant (AP Photo)

2. Viva la Carrick. The much-debated midfielder put in another barnstorming performance on Sunday and bagged his first goal for the club since scoring against City in January of 2010 – and it was the least he deserved. 84% passing success rate, 6 interceptions, 4 tackles, 3 clearances and 1 block are but statistics that show what an integral part Carrick played in the devastating win on Sunday. I thought that our midfield was in dire straits after Cleverley was confirmed to be out until the new year but this breathtakingly effective partnership that is being struck between Jones and Carrick has brought a new lease of life to the squad. They seem to be bouncing off each other and compliment one another superbly and it has given me great confidence that our midfield will now not simply be over-run by the opposition and we can dictate play from the middle again once more.

3. Has Antonio Valencia returned? When Wayne Rooney scored 34 goals two years ago, it was in no small part due to the fantastic deliveries that Valencia consistently churned out. At one point, I believe, Rooney even scored eight headed goals on the trot, as a testament to the pinpoint accuracy of the crosses he was receiving. The past two games, Wolves and QPR, have seen Valencia put in some good performances and it could be the beginning of the return to our one-trick Tony. It couldn’t come at a better time with Ashley Young struggling to re-find his early season form and with Nani looking dominant on the left wing, Valencia is staking his claim to a starting berth on the right wing. The only question is whether he will be able to continue his form throughout the festive period but considering how incredible he was on his return from a horrific ankle injury, it is obvious he still has the calibre to perform at such a level.

4. When was the last time we were unchanged? I can’t remember the last time SAF put out the same line-up for 2 Premier League games on the trot without tinkering, such is his policy of rotation, and it worked wonders. Everybody knew their place in the team and there was no confusion, no leaving massive gaps, no naive decisions (ignoring Evra being skinned by Mackie on more than one occasion) and we looked like we played with that starting line-up week in week out. If there is one thing that we should be craving in this festive period as United fans then it is consistency and with Fulham away tonight, the onus is on the players to try and perform at that level once again. Will it be the same starting XI tonight having played 90 minutes on Sunday? Probably not, but I hope that it will not impact on the performance. However, having already picked up more points away from home so far this season than we did in the entirety of the last campaign, the fear factor of United has returned.

5. Hernandez out for a month? Considering he took a nasty fall early on in the Aston Villa fixture, it was no surprise that we were told ankle ligament damage would keep our Mexican magician on the sideline for at least a month. Fast forward two weeks and Hernandez comes on a substitute against QPR ahead of schedule. The kid must have an incredible ability to recover from injury or United were overcompensating when they said he would be out for a month – either way, it was fantastic to see him coming on. Sorry Dimitar, but your time at United is now truly over and I would much rather see Hernandez coming on when we need a goal than you. The form of Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney, however, may well keep Hernandez on the sideline until he is considered fully fit but having played on Sunday, SAF may choose to rotate and bring Hernandez in for Fulham away tonight.

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