Manchester United have picked up where they left off last season, with only two points from three games which includes a loss to Swansea on opening-day as well as draws against Sunderland and Burnley. Their next challenge come in the form of newly-promoted side, Queens Park Rangers, who have also not exactly set the world alight with a solitary win thus far writes Oswald Emmanuel.
It has been roughly two weeks since the close of the 2014 summer transfer window, and the Red Devils are the ones who have grabbed all the headlines of late with the major shake-up in the United camp under coach Louis van Gaal. As promised the Dutchman took his time to evaluate the entire squad over the entire pre-season and first two games. However, being without a win to date signaled the start of the overhaul, as 14 squad players have been sold/ loaned/ released and a history-defying figure of £150 million has been spent.
The Theatre of Dreams welcomes six new faces in Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind as well as superstars Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao. While undeniably exciting for the fans, the influx of stars also poses a new selection dilemma for the Manchester United coach – one that he should relish. Record-buy, Di Maria has been drafted from Real Madrid to bring creativity while deadline-day purchase Falcao, will add steel to the frontline with the exits of Nani, Shinji Kagawa, Chicharito and Danny Welbeck – whose sale has attracted much flak from many citing United losing their identity of breeding young players, especially with Welbeck, who has been at Old Trafford since he was six. Van Gaal has since defended his decision by saying, “(he) had been here since he was nine, but after he came back from Sunderland, he does not have the record of Rooney or van Persie, and that is the standard”.
Despite the flurry of transfers, United have still drawn criticism for not buying in more defensive reinforcements since the departures of long-serving defenders, Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdiand and Nemanja Vidic. If anything can be picked on from the ins and outs so far, van Gaal aims to outscore the opponents and it is anyone’s guess how he will accommodate all his attackers in his first team; this has prompted the possibility of a change in formation from the unsuccessful 3-5-2 – which coincidentally is used by QPR.
The game comes immediately after the International break and has had one notable casualty in Manchester United’s first-choice defender, Phil Jones; he joins Ashley Young in the 10-man injury list that also includes Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Chris Smalling. Jones was voted player of the month (August) due to his standout performances in defence. He tore his hamstring while playing for England and his one-month lay off could not have come at a worse time for van Gaal considering that the Red Devils look to start the season afresh with a long-anticipated win.
On the positive side, all six summer signings of the new-look United squad are fit to play, with Herrera and Shaw having trained this week and Rojo getting his work-permit approved. QPR on the other hand only have Alejandro Faurlin out.
Its still early in the season, yet this fixture proves to be such an exciting and crucial one for both, Manchester United and QPR, who strive for champions league qualification and survival respectively. The question on the fans’ lips will be if the all the new boys will start the game – which sounds very exciting, yet risky. Expect Falcao come off the bench for the 20-time champions; while Rojo and Blind should be certain starters along with Shaw, Rafael and Herrera make their way back from injury. As for Queens Park Rangers, it should be a relatively unchanged side from the one that beat Sunderland 1-0, with players like Robert Green, Steven Caulker and Ferdinand – who makes his first comeback to the club, which he left before the start of the season after 12 years.
QPR do boast experience, yet the match set to be played in Old Trafford should prove too much for their ageing defence and lack of pace. Manchester United does have a weak defence themselves and a number of players making their debuts could make it nervous. However, home advantage and an obvious gulf in quality should see United cruise to a comfortable victory.
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