Manchester United-Queens Park Rangers Preview
On the surface things don't look much different at Manchester United, since they again have 37 points through 21 matches in their first season under a new manager.
Yet Dutchman Louis van Gaal has revived the mindset of the Theatre of Dreams after last season's disappointment under David Moyes, and United's chase of a Champions League spot resumes on Saturday at Loftus Road against relegation-challenged Queens Park Rangers.
United (10-7-4) remained on 37 points following last Sunday's 1-0 home loss to Southampton, a defeat that ended a 10-match unbeaten run in league play and dropped them two points behind the Saints for third in the table. While United can still lift the FA Cup trophy this season, they are now 10 points behind front-running Chelsea in the league, leaving a top-four finish to access the lucrative continental tournament as the most visible and viable target for Van Gaal's men.
"We have to look forward to the next game and make sure we get three points," defender Phil Jones told the team's official website. "We have been on a decent run and we need to go on a new one. Every one of us in the changing room wants to get better, to learn and that's only good for us."
What's not good for United is they likely will be without first-choice striker Robin van Persie, who injured his ankle in Sunday's setback. The Dutchman is the joint-leader in scoring with eight goals, though his absence may give embattled Radamel Falcao a chance to get back in Van Gaal's good graces.
The Colombian was not part of the 18-man squad last week and has three goals in 12 league appearances. There have also been rumours Falcao may depart from Old Trafford after his season-long loan from Monaco is completed.
Queens Park Rangers (5-4-12) are happy to be back at Loftus Road as the road continued to prove unkind to the London side. The R's became the first team in Premier League history to lose their first 10 road matches in a season after a 2-1 defeat at Burnley on Jan. 10, conceding the go-ahead goal four minutes after Charlie Austin converted from the spot on 33 minutes.
"This United game is a big one for us," Steven Caulker told QPR's official website. "At home our form in the league has been good and we want to maintain that. We know a result against United will have the table looking a lot healthier and set us up much better for going into the back end of the season."
Austin has been the main reason Rangers have enjoyed success at home, netting nine of his team-leading 13 goals at Loftus Road in helping QPR claim all 19 of their points. Despite entering this match 19th and trailing Hull on goal differential, a win could vault them as high as 12th - where Everton currently reside on 22 points.
"The table is so tight," Caulker noted. "We've done well to make it a bit of a fortress and we won't be paying United too much respect, we're going after all three points."
United ran rampant in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford on Sept. 14, routing Rangers 4-0 as Angel di Maria, Ander Herrera and Wayne Rooney scored in a 20-minute span of the first half before Juan Mata completed the scoring on 58 minutes. The Red Devils have won the last five league meetings and are 11-2-0 versus QPR since the start of the 1992-93 season.