Manchester United-Queens Park Rangers Preview
LONDON (SE) - On the pitch, little seems to be slowing Manchester United in pursuit of their 20th league title. Off the pitch, however, things have become very interesting around Old Trafford.
Following a surprise shake-up at the top of the storied club's hierarchy, front-running United seek a fourth straight league victory Saturday when they face last-place Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road.
Manchester United (21-2-3) have a comfortable 12-point lead atop the Premier League with 12 matches remaining and still in position to claim a treble after securing a 1-1 draw at Real Madrid on Feb. 13 in their first-leg tie in the Champions League round of 16. They also moved into the quarterfinals of the FA Cup - a trophy they haven't lifted since 2004 - on Monday by defeating Reading 2-1 on goals by Nani and Javier Hernandez.
The Red Devils have been in devastating form in the league with three wins on the bounce and are currently unbeaten in the last 14 (12-2-0), but there was surprise in Manchester on Thursday when David Gill announced he is resigning his position as the club's chief executive officer effective June 30.
Gill, who stayed with the team after its controversial purchase by the Glazer family, had worked well with manager Sir Alex Ferguson over the past decade, and the Scot lauded Gill for forming such a cohesive tandem that has brought so much success to Old Trafford.
``We have had a million arguments, but I have always enjoyed them because I know that David has two great qualities: he is straight and he always puts Manchester United first,'' Ferguson said. ``No disagreement is ever personal with him. He always wants the best for United, whether it's the players, the training ground or the staff.''
With such a close ally leaving - Gill will remain on the club's board as well as vice chairman of the English FA while also vying for a spot on UEFA's executive committee - speculation has renewed whether this will be the final season for the 71-year-old Ferguson, who has been with United since 1986 and is trying to claim his third Champions League title, 13th Premier League trophy and sixth FA Cup title with the club.
"Him stepping down is a big loss to me but the fact he's staying on the board encourages me that the reason for his departure is heartfelt, that he believes it is time for the club to move on," Ferguson said. "If I could have found a way of persuading him to stay, I would love to have done that. But he has made his decision and I respect him for it."
On the pitch, Ferguson has an injury worry over Phil Jones, who suffered an ankle injury in the first half of the victory over Reading, while striker Wayne Rooney did not play due to a sinus infection that has his status for this match in doubt. Nani, who replaced Jones and finished with a goal and an assist, may feature if Jones is unable to play.
While United try to steamroll to the title, Queens Park Rangers (2-11-13) continue to scrape to stay in the top flight. Manager Harry Redknapp's team has shown improved form but is still seven points from safety with points in five of six matches (1-4-1) despite not conceding in the last three at Loftus Road.
Additionally, Rangers were unable to carry that form to the road, where Swansea punished them 4-1 in their last league match on Feb. 9.
"We are desperate to stay in the Premier League," Rangers midfielder Stephane Mbia told the team's official website. "Every game for us is going to be a battle, a fight. This game on Saturday is very, very important."
In the reverse fixture, United overturned a 1-0 deficit with goals by Hernandez, Jonny Evans and Darren Fletcher in an eight-minute span of the second half en route to a 3-1 win Nov. 24. QPR have gone eight home matches (0-3-5) without a win over United since a First Division victory in May 1989.