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Man United come from behind yet again, go top after 3-1 victory over QPR

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anderson_slideManchester United move back to the top of the Premier League standings after an eventually comfortable 3-1 victory over Queens Park Rangers at Old Trafford on a rain-sodden evening in Manchester. After a poor first half devoid of chances, the game came alive in the 2nd period when the away side took a shock lead in the 51st minute through Jamie Mackie. But the Red Devils unsurprisingly responded to going behind by launching an offensive charge and they were in their comfort zone soon after going behind.

Wayne Rooney setup the first two goals from corners as Jonny Evans equalized on 64 minutes before Darren Fletcher warmed the hearts of the home fans with an emotional goal on his Premier League return. Super-sub Javier Hernandez wrapped up the points in the 71st minute to give Man United much needed breathing space.

Darren Fletcher’s name on the team sheet was the big news for United as the Scotsman started alongside Paul Scholes in central midfield, with Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck being stationed on the wings. Wayne Rooney returned from injury to partner Robin van Persie in attack while at the back Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand rekindled their central defensive partnership, with Rafael da Silva and Patrice Evra in the wide areas.

QPR also lined up in a similar formation as Djibril Cisse led the line with Kieron Dyer, Adel Taarabt and Jamie Mackie joining in from midfield. Alejandro Faurlin and Shaun Derry started together in midfield with Stephen Mbia being pushed to an unfamiliar right-back spot. At the back, Ryan Nelsen and Clint Hill marshalled the centre while Armand Traore stuck to the left wing.

The encounter suffered from a laboured start as neither side turned on the style in the opening stages, with the fluid United attack yet to fashion an opportunity while at the other end Ferdinand’s mistake was the only time QPR got a sniff.

The first time the home side really stretched the opposing defence was when Rafael played in a ball from the right for Van Persie, whose scuffed shot made its way to Scholes a few yards from goal but the veteran couldn’t sort his feet in time, thus allowing Derry to make a vital tackle.

Egged on by the home crowd United increased their tempo as Van Persie struck the side netting from Welbeck’s cutback. Another slick move from the left ended with Young coming in from the opposite wing to flash a shot wide of goal after Scholes surprisingly turned down a chance to shoot from a great position. Rangers were sitting very deep in their own area, allowing United’s defenders to amble up to the halfway line to spray the passes.

The Red Devils had to get down the wings to stretch QPR’s defence and they did exactly that after the half-hour mark as Evra linked up well with Van Persie on the left before striking straight at Julio Cesar. Rooney then did the same from the other end after Welbeck made his way down the wing, warming Cesar’s fingertips again a minute later with a shot from distance.

The ball did find itself in the back of the net before the break as Mackie did very well to get ahead of the United back-four to meet Cisse’s cross with a swooping header, but the linesman rightly ruled out the effort for being offside.

The striker managed to successfully get himself on the score sheet after the break though as the United defence went to sleep from a short corner, with Dyer delivering the final pass for Mackie who made his way across the box to finish past Anders Lindegaard as the home side found themselves behind for the umpteenth time in the season.

The goal was enough for Sir Alex to throw on the cavalry as the predictable change of Javier Hernandez for the disappointing Young occurred while Anderson also replaced Scholes. But it was an unlikely source that scored the equalizer as Evans continued his great scoring form. A Rooney corner from the left was headed back across goal by Welbeck and Evans showed predatory instincts to make a dash in front of Cesar to head the ball past the veteran Brazilian.

The United turnaround didn’t take too long as they were ahead by the 68th minute thanks to yet another goal from a Rooney corner, with Fletcher the scorer this time around as he rose majestically to power a header past Cesar. It was an emotional moment for the midfielder as the goal marked his successful comeback to the game after a career-threatening illness. .

There was no stopping the home side now as the two substitutes then combined for  a brilliant third goal. Anderson picked up the ball in midfield, raced forward to poke a ball down the middle for Hernandez, who unsurprisingly made his way between two defenders to take a classy first touch and bury the ball past the keeper.

The game petered out after the goal as the QPR players understandably dropped their shoulders. Man United had a few chances to extend their lead while also having to retain their two-goal advantage as Rafael had to make a clearance at the post from a QPR corner.

Newly appointed QPR manager Harry Redknapp was in the stands to take in the size of the task on hand as his side remain rooted to the bottom of the table. Rangers did show a lot more fight than last weekend but it was ultimately not enough to see of the Red Devils, who once again didn’t have to reach their top gear to seal the three points. United temporarily go back on top, leading Man City by two points with Roberto Mancini’s men playing Chelsea in a blockbuster clash tomorrow.

Teams:

Man Utd: Lindegaard, Da Silva, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra, Young (Hernandez 58'), Fletcher, Scholes (Anderson 58'), Rooney, Welbeck (Powell 78'), van Persie.

Subs: De Gea, Jones, Anderson, Smalling, Hernandez, Cleverley, Powell.

QPR: Julio Cesar, Hill, Nelsen, Mbia, Traore (A Ferdinand 60'), Derry, Faurlin, Mackie, Taarabt (Hoilett 73'), Dyer, Cisse.

Subs: Green, Diakite, Ferdinand, Wright-Phillips, Granero, Ephraim, Hoilett.

Final Score: Man United 3-1 QPR (Mackie 52', Evans 64', Fletcher 68', Hernandez 71')

File Photograph Copyright: Ryu Voelkel