Redknapp hangs on despite United defeat - report
Monday, 19th Jan 2015 19:51 by Clive Whittingham
QPR lost 2-0 to Manchester United at Loftus Road on Saturday, but manager Harry Redknapp has held onto his job regardless of the result and newspaper headlines indicating he was certain for the chop.
They came to Loftus Road to bury Harry Redknapp, not to praise him. Second from bottom of the Premier League with varying forms of financial Armageddon predicted if relegation follows in May, the jungle drums were rumbling prior to a visit from Manchester United. The British press, for so long a champion of Redknapp’s cause, was on the turn.
Rangers competed very well in the first half – a muscular forward line of Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora sending feathers flying and chickens screeching amid Manchester United's porous back three. Austin drew a fine save from visiting keeper David De Gea with a dipping 25 yard volley that had Goal of the Season written all over it until the Spaniard flung himself up into the air and clawed the ball out of the top left corner.
In a 4-4-2 formation that has brought them joy at home, there was certainly no sign of players turning it in early in order to give a disliked manager a final shove. The Loftus Road faithful have seen what that looks like at the end of Mark Hughes’ reign here and they applauded their players from the field at the end of the game despite the result. By Monday morning chairman Tony Fernandes had attempted to put the story to bed by promising not to wield the axe.
The visitors were a complete mess at the start of this game. The amount of players out of position in a weird 3-3-2-2 set up would have made even Redknapp blush and it rendered Angel Di Maria - a wide midfielder used as a centre forward - and Juan Mata - one of two players trying to play the one ‘in the hole’ position behind the front men - completely anonymous. Wayne Rooney charged around in midfield rather than attack, concentrating more on refereeing the game for Neil Swarbrick than competing in it for his team. Centre back Phil Jones, looking and playing like a police horse post Newcastle-Sunderland match, was taking the United corners at one stage and Antonio Valencia - a winger playing full back - almost gifted QPR an opening goal by being penalised for a foul throw and then stopping to argue about it rather than file back into defensive position. Eduardo Vargas flicked the resulting loose ball over the bar.
The visiting fans could be heard chanting for a simpler 4-4-2 formation, and urging their team to attack. There's a feeling that Van Gaal is over-complicating things and sure enough when he simplified the set up and the approach by introducing Marouane Fellaini for Mata at the start of the second half and young striker James Wilson for Jonny Evans soon after his team improved – the Belgian opened the scoring with a fiercely struck volley during a period of sustained pressure before the hour mark.
The worst Man Utd defence in living memory continued to give up chances though, most notably 15 minutes from time when the whole set up imploded allowing Eduardo Vargas a clear run on the goal from the halfway line with two men up in support. The Chilean, declining in form and confidence while being picked out of position wide on the right, dithered and chose badly, allowing a golden chance for an equaliser to slip away. As Vargas' performances have suffered, so the efforts of his fellow countryman Mauricio Isla have increased. The tireless full back could be found bursting into the area in stoppage time and drawing a save from De Gea after Joey Barton had worked hard to keep the ball in play.
QPR's league position and results so far were not unexpected, something Redknapp is at pains to point out. The team remains in touch at the bottom of the league, despite shipping a second goal in injury time here when Wilson ran through on goal with QPR committed downfield hunting an equaliser – Niko Kranjcar's embarrassing failure to run after the young striker meant he got a second free hit which he dispatched into the bottom corner after Green had saved his first effort. In actual fact, it's Redknapp's demeanour and steady stream of reasons why nothing is ever his fault that have driven fans used to their team getting beaten most weeks to distraction.
After this game he spoke of the need to get a striker in on loan, just a fortnight after he borrowed West Ham forward Mauro Zarate. The Argentinean was an unused substitute here, and has played just 15 minutes on the wing so far in his QPR career. With Vargas, who averages a goal every other game up front for the Chilean national team, playing poorly on the other flanks it's another one of those Redknapp moments that erodes away at the patience and good nature of QPR fans after a while. And still he stays.
And let's not forget, that while QPR troubled Man Utd before half time and spurned other chances afterwards, this could comfortably have been a 4-0 or even a 5-0 defeat. With only 12 minutes on the watch, Radamel Falcao burst through a static backline at the Loft End and drew two saves from Robert Green in a one on one situation. Immediately after the break, with QPR still adapting to the loss of Richard Dunne to injury and the introduction of Steven Caulker, he was left in acres of space at the far post but left his header too close to Green and the keeper produced the save of the match. Twice in as many minutes after Vargas had spurned Rangers' best opportunity the Colombian somehow failed to connect with low crosses from Wilson that appeared to have put a second goal on a plate for him just five yards from the goal.
How would the crowd have reacted to a third, fourth or fifth United goal? How would Tony Fernandes have reacted? Harry Redknapp likes to roll out the occasional line about a last minute equaliser for Swansea at Loftus Road, without which Rangers would be in a much healthier league position, but by the same token he was probably only the amateur-standard finishing of Falcao away from packing his things up into a small cardboard box after this one. That's how fickle football is, and how short term QPR operate – but for three or four saves from Robert Green, we'd probably have been changing the manager today.
In the end, the fans had only Neil Swarbrick's latest display of breathtaking refereeing to get them out of their seats. Pursued throughout the match by Wayne Rooney, he allowed the United captain to say and do as he pleased, and came up with some amazing moments as a result.
On the half hour Rooney used a break in play to have a prolonged, heated discussion with the official about how he felt the game was progressing. Two minutes later Rooney fouled Joey Barton on the halfway line and yet was awarded a free kick himself. Two minutes after that Vargas robbed Rooney of the ball on the edge of the United area to set up a counter attack chance but was, of course, brought back and penalised for a non-existent offence. Mauricio Isla was booked in the second half for a fair tackle and when Marcos Rojo was then also booked for hacking into the back of Bobby Zamora – as obvious a yellow card as you'll ever see – Rooney decided it was time for another break of the game and scream in the face of the official. When that free kick was headed out for a corner Swarbrick, who rather than standing in the conventional position on the far side, looking through play towards his linesman, had decided to stand on the same side of the field as his assistant so they both had the same, identical, crap view, awarded a goal kick after a prolonged pause that clearly indicated the decision was a complete piece of guesswork. Later Valencia cleared the ball behind for a corner and threw himself to the ground in an obvious piece of play-acting – Swarbrick immediately penalised substitute Adel Taarabt for a foul which simply hadn't happened. Clint Hill was rightly booked for a daft push on Fellaini but when QPR counter attacked from the resulting free kick Rooney was allowed to chop down Vargas and then boot the ball away so a quick free kick couldn't be taken with no card being produced.
But to blame the referee in any way for the defeat would be to engage in Redknapp's favoured pass-time of blame shifting. QPR lost because they didn't capitalise on a poor Man Utd first half leaving them exposed to defeat when the visitors improved in the second. While Van Gaal's substitutions changed the game for his team, QPR's – as last week at Burnley – hindered their chances. Redknapp claimed he was pleased with Adel Taarabt at Turf Moor, but dropped him for this game only to introduce him, and Niko Kranjcar, in the second half without any apparent set positions. Indeed the Croatian's involvement seemed to be based entirely around the prospect that QPR might get a free kick on the edge of the penalty area – in open play he contributed nothing for ten minutes and his defending for the second goal does not reflect well on him.
But by any sensible judgement, Manchester United are a better team than QPR and so it proved. Redknapp stays regardless and now has a fortnight of transfer window to go before a trip to Stoke. Play at the Britannia as they have in the previous 11 road games this season, and achieve the same result, and Tony Fernandes may already start to regret not biting the bullet this morning.
QPR: Green 7; Isla 7, Dunne 6 (Caulker 46, 6), Onuoha 6, Hill 6; Vargas 5, Barton 6, Henry 6, Fer 5 (Taarabt 70, 6); Austin 6, Zamora 6 (Kranjcar 80, 5)
Subs not used: Ferdinand, McCarthy, Hoilett, Zarate
Bookings: Barton 40 (foul), Isla 59 (foul), Hill 81 (foul)
Man Utd: De Gea 7; Jones 5, Evans 5 (Wilson 57, 8), Rojo 6; Carrick 6, Valencia 6, Rooney 7, Blind 6, Mata 5 (Fellaini 46, 8); Di Maria 5 (Herrara 90+5, -), Falcao 5
Subs not used: Januzaj, Smalling, Valdes, McNair
Goals: Fellaini 57 (assisted Valencia), Wilson 90+3 (assisted Di Maria)
Bookings: Mata 44 (foul), Rojo 67 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Robert Green 7 Several fine saves to keep the game competitive, all of them from Radamel Falcao. Credit also to Mauricio Isla for a very decent performance.
Referee – Wayne Rooney (Merseyside) 7 Controlled the game well from start to finish, tirelessly scrutinising each decision and applying pressure to ensure the next one went in favour of his team. For the record, the ventriloquist's dummy with the whistle in its hand gets 3/10.
Attendance – 18,098 (1,800 Man Utd approx) If you're one of the hundreds of people seen walking around in a QP Rangers – Man Utd half and half scarf then you need to have a long look at yourself in the mirror. If you bought one for your child, you should be expecting a call from social services.
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