QPR expectantly lost at home to Manchester United by 2 goals to nil. Rafael scored a stunning volley, and Nani slotted Giggs in for a second to carry United over a Rangers.
In terms of possession, the game was far more balanced than most may have predicted. The difference was largely marginal, with Manchester United carrying 51.5% of the possession to QPR’s 48.5%.
Their passing accuracy was just as close. United completed at a rate of 77%, QPR at 74%.
Shots were dead equal in their net total. Both teams managed 14 shots. However, QPR only managed to take shots from range. Manchester United worked the ball much closer to the box, and the vast majority of their shots were significantly closer to the goal than QPR’s.
All in all, the cutting edge was their chance creation. QPR failed to create any clear chances, whereas United created 3. The difference was not pass completion or retention of the ball. The difference was ultimately class, and United’s players managed to do with the ball when they possessed it.
Manchester United played a fluid formation that on paper resembles a 4-4-2. When in possession in advanced positions, Young and Nani expanded the width of United’s midfield and advanced farther up the field alongside the more advanced forward in van Persie/Welbeck. In a way, it was a 4-2-2-2, with two midfielders, Carrick and Giggs, anchoring the midfielder while the two wingers spread wide and advanced to open up space. The space vacated by the two wingers was then taken by Evra and Rafael, who supported the two midfielders.
Although Chicharito often played slightly lower than his striker partner, United still looked to take advantage of his pace. In defense the Mexican would often drop deeper and pressure a larger area of the pitch. However, in attack he made attacking runs from deeper, relying on the movement of van Perise/Welbeck to open up space for him to take advantage of. In short, he was slightly withdrawn, but was undoubtedly occupying a role made to take advantage of his opportunistic runs and pace.
When United lost possession, their formation looked closer to a 4-5-1. Nani and Young contracted inward, significantly narrowing United’s formation. Throughout the match, both wingers dropped back to support United’s fullbacks to shore up their defense and ensure stability in defense.
Rangers formation can be tentatively referred to as a 4-4-2 as well. Granero and Mbia made up Rangers’ midfield, with Taarabt and Townsend flanking them. Zamora acted as a target man at the apex of their formation, with Mackie rotating around him looking for space to run into. Granero often drifted wide to support the flanks, looking to hook the wingers into a connection with the two main attackers. Mbia anchored the midfielder, refusing to push too high up the pitch and supporting the full-backs in defense.
Taarabt, as he is wont to do, often drifted out of position. While he started in and often reprised a role on the left-wing, he was not a “left winger”. He drifted across the pitch, several times making runs down the right side of the pitch as well as the left. Despite his tendency to drift and look for space, Taarabt never really found any dangerous ground. He took more shots, 5, than any other QPR player, but only 2 of these were on target. He additionally did not create any chances during set pieces. Ultimately, he was too loose, too isolated at times to contribute to QPR’s build up play or sniff out his own chances.
When out of possession, the greatest shift for QPR was in midfield. Mbia and Granero both collapsed inward and deeper to support the defense. Granero withdrew from the hole to play in line with Mbia in these situations. The only two players to remain advanced were Zamora and Mackie, who both tracked the along United’s backline to apply pressure and attempt to force a mistake.
Mbia in particular gave fantastic support to the full-backs. He intercepted the ball the most times for a QPR player: 8. The graph for these interceptions illustrates Mbia’s movement: he covered a wide swath of QPR’s defense half, covering both flanks as well as the midfield.
United’s higher defence line and better organization prevented QPR from ever getting shots away too close to goal. With both teams fielded somewhat similar systems and retained a similar percentage of possession, United created far more opportunities. The simple fact of the matter is that QPR still look disjointed and without rhythm at times. They lack the coherence of movement that allowed Nani and Giggs to combine for a goal that epitomized the gulf in difference between the two teams. If Redknapp wants to save Rangers from relegation, he will need to bring more organization to QPR’s game. By the looks of it, they may not have enough time to find that organization, given where their team is.