LONDON, January 17 – Marouane Fellaini and James Wilson came off the substitutes’ bench to earn Manchester United a 2-0 victory at struggling Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League on Saturday.
Both sides’ managers went into the game under the spotlight, but it was United’s Louis van Gaal who prevailed at the expense of QPR’s under-pressure Harry Redknapp thanks to the impact of his two substitutes.
The pair spared the blushes of Radamel Falcao, who returned to the starting XI but squandered two gilt-edged chances, and allowed United to consolidate their position in the top four.
Redknapp had accused a Loftus Road insider of undermining him in the build-up to the game and his mood will not have been improved by the sight of the firepower on the United team-sheet.
Robin van Persie was absent after injuring his ankle in United’s 1-0 loss at home to Southampton last weekend, but the Dutchman’s misfortune opened the door for Falcao.
Van Gaal has challenged the on-loan Monaco striker to prove himself worthy of a long-term contract and it was the Colombia international who had the first chance of an error-prone first half in west London.
Juan Mata’s cross picked Falcao out in the 13th minute, but both of the striker’s close-range efforts were met by reflex saves from goalkeeper Rob Green.
QPR have been indebted to Charlie Austin for keeping them in touch with the teams above the relegation zone and their top scorer almost gave them the lead mid-way through the first period.
Bobby Zamora’s pass fell kindly for the former Burnley striker, who was watched by England manager Roy Hodgson, but David de Gea was equal to his effort.
– United fans protest –
The United goalkeeper would be called into action again moments later when he was forced to acrobatically tip another Austin shot from distance over his own crossbar.
As the visitors laboured in attack, United’s supporters made their displeasure felt at half-time by urging Van Gaal to ditch his favoured 3-5-2 formation with a chant of: “4-4-2!”
Van Gaal held his tactical course, initially, but made a personnel adjustment at half-time by sending Fellaini on for Mata.
Falcao remained United’s biggest threat and will have wondered how Green managed to push out his 56th-minute header from Angel di Maria’s cross.
But Green would be beaten two minutes later, by Fellaini. Wayne Rooney found Antonio Valencia on the right and from his cut-back, the Belgian midfielder took a touch before hammering home.
It remained a scrappy game, and QPR were seeking to live off the scraps.
Leroy Fer blazed over but the home side, who have been formidable on their own patch this season, were struggling to find a way back into a poor game, despite the promptings of substitute Adel Taarabt.
The hosts were gifted a chance when Michael Carrick and Marcos Rojo were involved in a mix-up going for the same ball, but Eduardo Vargas failed to make the most of the opportunity presented to him.
Vargas was given further reason to rue his profligacy deep into added time when 19-year-old Wilson sealed the win with his first goal of the season, slotting home the rebound after his initial effort was saved by Green.