QPR last beat United on New Year’s Day 1992 in a 4-1 victory at Old Trafford, the day after Sir Alex Ferguson’s 50th birthday. It was a match that nobody who was present at will ever forget. At no point yesterday did they look anywhere near repeating that feat. On 22 minutes of what was, until then, a cagey game, Ryan Giggs robbed Adel Taarabt in midfield to feed Robin Van Persie, whose shot was parried by QPR’s Brazilian goalkeeper Júlio César. Rafael followed up with a first time shot from 25 yards which has to be a contender for goal of the season. It was a goal that reminded me of his compatriot Éder Assis. If he had been wearing his native colours of Yellow and Blue instead of the Red and Black of United, we would be seeing that goal every fifteen minutes on SKY Sports with something like Black Magic Woman by Santana playing in the background.
QPR had Bobby Zamora and Chris Samba starting yesterday, not necessarily players I’d want at Old Trafford but I’ve seen both have great games against United in recent times. Even though Zamora was taken care of by an imperious Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, I was pleased when he was substituted on 60 minutes to be replaced by QPR’s recent signing from Olympique de Marseille, Loïc Rémy. As for Samba, he didn’t look fully fit to me. The most surprising thing about the home team was how little heart or fight was demonstrated, especially with players like Samba and Zamora in the side. Teams playing for their survival in the Premier League normally raise their game to some degree when playing a team at the top of the table but QPR played with no urgency whatsoever. On 80 minutes, Ryan Giggs scored for the third time in four games to calm any lingering anxiety of the 2,500 travelling support in the School End.
After having a few pints in a very efficiently staffed Walkabout bar next door to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, the walk down Oxbridge Road Road towards Loftus Road had a small police presence due to a gang of a dozen pissed up young Reds marching down the road singing loudly. Once inside the ground, I was pleasantly surprised to find beer on sale at £4.00 a pint – not something you can take for granted at away grounds. At half time, stewards were panicking as a massive crush ensued on an ill equipped concourse. There was gridlock amongst fans coming in from the terrace, coming in and out of the toilets and trying to get food and drink. I’ve no doubt that QPR will try and lay the blame at the door of United fans for anarchic behaviour. (That’s assuming they acknowledge it at all). The truth is that if it wasn’t for the calm heads amongst the travelling Reds we could have had a major incident in that stand yesterday. Anybody who thinks the Hillsborough disaster couldn’t occur in this day and age due to all seated terraces is living in cloud cuckoo land. Loftus Road may be a quaint old stadium in one of my favourite parts of London but if that ground is holding a full house, as it was yesterday, it’s a death trap. To say you’re close to the pitch in the Lower School End of Loftus Road is an understatement. In a stand that’s very similar to the lower tier of the Bramhall Lane stand at Sheffield United, it’s reminiscent of being stood on Fog Lane Park on a Sunday morning; the only real difference being that Fog Lane is a far better layout.
United fans were in good boisterous voice yesterday; the old songs were out as well as the new. Five minutes before half time, about twenty yards to my right, ten to fifteen lads started singing a song about Michael Carrick to the melody of Magic by Pilot. It was infectious and by the midpoint of the second half, the entire stand was singing it. I’ve since come across a few people moaning about it due to the apparent blasphemy of comparing Carrick to Scholes (please see below…) There’s two things I can say to that: first, it’s a million times better than that ‘Kicking a Blue’ shite (to the melody of Tom Hark by The Pirhanas) and secondly, these too-cool-for-school Reds need to get over themselves or maybe come up with something better if they’re not too busy being cool to do so.
“Whoa whoa whoa, it’s Carrick, you know, never believe it’s not Scholes, it’s Carrick, you know (repeat ad infinitum)