Queens Park Rangers found themselves in familiar territory on Easter Sunday, down to ten men and a goal behind to a better team. Unlike previous trips down that road, they held on and despite losing two-nil, performed better under adverse conditions than they had in similar situations this season.
Ashley Young's flop that won United a penalty and sent Shaun Derry off thirteen minutes into the match was a disgrace - to United, to the referees and to the game, and should be held up as an example of unacceptable behavior on the pitch. Certainly against lowly QPR, Man U didn't need any extra advantages, and the failure from the linesman who was in position to see Young a yard offside, to the referee who awarded the penalty and produced a straight red card, cut down what could have been an interesting match before it was truly underway.
Queens Park Rangers might never have been able to unseat the presumed champions at Old Trafford, but they were weathering the onslaught and fought well with ten men the rest of the way. Supporters from both clubs were cheated out of an entertaining contest by a selfish act that sapped the excitement from an otherwise enjoyable match.
Copyright - Who Ate All The Pies
QPR have had their share of red-cards this season, from the deserved (Cisse's throat grab) to the phantom (Bradley Johnson's Oscar winning headbutt reaction). In this instance, Derry laid the slightest of contact on Young, who wasted no time hurling himself to the ground. In a winner-takes-all world, the idea of complaining about decency seems rather quaint. But Man U is one of the most watched clubs in the world, and the young players of the game observing this behaviour might see it working and believe it a tactic worthy of them. It is not. Rather, it's the mark of a craven, seizing a false advantage when hard work and solid play would have probably won the game outright. If the FA wants to eliminate these shenanigans, they need to award a straight red now and again to the actors, and leave the game to the majority of honourable footballers playing it.
Even if the referee believed he'd seen a foul in the penalty area, the call from his linesman should have eliminated it, as Young was clearly offside and the play should have been whistled dead. But should-have-beens don't equal points in the table, as QPR have learned painfully this season. There will be plenty to carp about over the summer regardless of what league the team are playing in next year, and unfortunately this event goes into that bin.
Beyond the controversy, QPR fared well under the circumstances. United were dominant for most of the match, working possession and wasting quality opportunities that the R's had their hands full trying to contend with. Despite the obvious disadvantages, the visitors did well to mitigate their poor possession, and worked a few moments of their own. The team selection was a bit of realism, resting Zamora to keep his legs fresh for two important contests this week, and giving Jay Bothroyd a rare start as the lone striker. It's been a while since we've had anything new to gripe about with regards to Bothroyd, but he did little to gain any attention in the match. However he came by all those goals at Cardiff last season, he's struggled at this level and has produced very little to help the R's cause. In his defence the opportunities were few and far between, and he needs service if he's to accomplish anything - something that was in short supply with Man U holding the ball against ten men for most of the match. Adel Taarabt continued to create and drive and make things happen, offering a few hopeful moments and looking like a player ready to take the next step forward. But outnumbered and with few outlets, most of his work came to naught as the United midfield and defence nullified his efforts. Taarabt also lost the ball that Paul Scholes fired through traffic to put the home side up by two goals and end any hope of a comeback. As with everything QPR, it was one step forward and two steps back. On the whole he remains one of the few bright spots for the squad and needs to keep making vital contributions as the fixture list draws to a close.
The result was not unexpected, and by and large QPR did what they had to do - limit the damage. They emerged still hovering above the drop, but avoided shipping a large tally to threaten their goal differential over the other Championship-bound clubs. They'll host Swansea Wednesday with a rested Zamora ready to return, and travel to West Brom next Saturday. The R's have learned that no team in this league is a pushover, but both clashes have crucial points available to help keep them up. So many matches have been called "must-win" this year that the words have lost their meaning, but if the team that survived the United bombardment and overcame a strong Arsenal side shows up, they may just escape with enough points to keep their Premier League spot next year.