Queens Park Rangers-Manchester United Preview
Take two of Louis van Gaal's Manchester United revolution begins on Sunday with the visit of Queens Park Rangers to Old Trafford.
On the back of an impressive pre-season slate that included wins over Liverpool and Real Madrid, van Gaal's United were expected to explode out of the blocks armed with the vaunted 3-5-2 formation the Dutchman had utilized so successfully for his national side at the World Cup.
Fast-forward three league matches and United are fourteenth in the table after their worst start to a season since 2007-08 having also suffered an embarrassing League Cup exit to third-tier MK Dons.
This humbling introduction has led to a tempering of expectations with van Gaal now setting his sights merely on Champions League qualification this season.
"It shall be difficult but a club such as United has to always have a target," van Gaal said in his pre-match press conference. "I think within the (top) three is logical because United want to be in the Champions League."
As United (0-2-1) resume hostilities after the enforced absence of the international break there is a sense of renewal around Old Trafford borne out of the business done on the final day of the transfer window. The acquisition of Radamel Falcao and Daley Blind added to an already impressive roster of summer transfers that included the capture of Angel Di Maria and Marcos Rojo.
"The fans shall expect a new start, of course, but we have to build up a new hierarchy and that always needs time," said van Gaal. "We've done very well in the transfer market. That's a big plus, and we have to produce results, starting against QPR."
Van Gaal has a number of injuries to deal with but his side will hardly be under-strength with Falcao, Blind and Rojo all set to debut for the new-look United.
Chris Smalling (groin), Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick (both ankle) are all ruled out as is Phil Jones (hamstring) who picked up his injury in England's 2-0 win over Switzerland.
Ashley Young is another doubt for United but Rafael and Luke Shaw are both in contention to play.
Opponents QPR (1-0-2) started the season with defeats to Hull City, Tottenham Hotspur and exited to Burton Albion in the League Cup but bounced back with a 1-0 home win against Sunderland in their last outing.
Manager Harry Redknapp expects his side will be in for a tough afternoon despite United's poor recent form.
"United have got a formidable front-line," Redkapp told the official club website. "It will be interesting to see how they gel. They've got a top, top team now.
"We have got to go up there and make sure that we work hard. We have got to be prepared to give them a game on Sunday. We were disappointing at Tottenham, we stood off them. We can't do that.
Redknapp added: "I was delighted with Sunderland but we have to carry that on into this game now and go up there and compete and give it a real go. It is up to us to go there and work hard and give it everything we have got."
QPR will be without Alejandro Faurlin (knee) and will assess the fitness of Joey Barton (hamstring) pre-match.
The sides last met during the 2012-13 Premier League season. United came from behind to win 3-1 at Old Trafford in November 2012 with Jonny Evans, Darren Fletcher and Hernandez scoring to offset Jamie Mackie's opener.
The Red Devils won 2-0 at Loftus Road in February 2013 with goals from Rafael and Ryan Giggs.