Rangers travel to Old Trafford for their 4th round Carling Cup tie tomorrow night, for what promises to be a memorable evening for both players and fans alike. Some 7,000 fans will be journeying up to Manchester; whilst many more will be glued to their radios and computers as the drama unfolds.
In the last round, Rangers showed Premier League team Aston Villa that, despite not having played in the top flight for over twelve years, they still had what it takes to compete with the best. A Damian Stewart goal separated the two sides at the final whistle – and our reward is this plum tie against Manchester United.
The Rs will be boosted by their 1-0 victory over Cardiff City on Saturday, in the Coca Cola Championship. This win keeps Rangers in 7th place in the league although on the same points as Cardiff who have a superior goal difference. Rangers have already amassed 25 points this season – a heady total at this early stage of November, considering our position this time last year!!
When Manchester United entered this season`s Carling Cup, they faced Middlesbrough at Old Trafford. United won 3-1, having led 1-0 at half-time. Ferguson put out a strong side that night, including first-team players like Rafael Da Silva, Wes Brown, Nemanja Vidic, Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo. The United goals came thanks to Ronaldo, Giggs and Nani.
Manchester United come into the game against QPR on the back of a 1-1 draw away to Celtic in the Champions League last Wednesday and a 1-2 loss at Arsenal on Saturday. Although, in the past, Ferguson has not appeared to be as serious in his pursuit of the Carling Cup as he is of other silverware (although I am sure he would deny this!), he will not want to experience a repeat of last season. Then, Ian Dowie`s Coventry defeated United at Old Trafford by a goal to nil.
Having equalised late in the game against Celtic last week, and having wasted many good chances against Arsenal on Saturday, Ferguson will expect his team to put right the wrongs of these last two games against what will be considered lowly opposition.
It will be up to Rangers to keep their shape, keep a solid defence, and concentrate throughout the entire game in what promises to be a cracking and memorable night for all Rs fans – and hopefully the players and Club!
R`s caretaker manager Gareth Ainsworth referred to his team`s resilience when facing 10-man Cardiff at Loftus Road on Saturday:
‘It`s a fantastic result. The lads kept believing right to the end. I never doubted them,’ he told QPR.co.uk.
‘I think we got the rub of the green with the first sending off, but to be fair to the lads, they kept going and Gavin Mahon came up with a fantastic header to win us the three points.”
Ainsworth spoke briefly to BBC Radio London after the game: “I always had faith in the boys and that`s the truth. I never got frustrated.”
“The boys tried their best, tried to play and probe,” he added explaining how the team was working together:
“QPR has really pulled together. Everyone`s backing everyone. We`re picking up, we`re backing each other, and I think we can achieve good things this season.”
Ainsworth praised the resilience of the QPR defence: “The lads held on. The defence is fantastic at the moment. We are not conceding.”
He talked about the substitutions and the importance of giving a substitute plenty of time to make an impact.
“The subs came on and did a fantastic job. We try and get our subs on quite early. I`ve made a decision to try to get them on so they can affect games.”
“Putting Akos and putting Gavin on with 30 and 40 minutes to go was the key.”
And Ainsworth even gave Buzsaky some homework to do whilst sitting on the bench!
“I told Akos to study Cardiff on the bench. He did that and he get on and he unlocked them a few times. He`s a fantastic player.”
“But Emmanuel Ledesma , who went off, is a fantastic player. It`s a nice problem to have for Tuesday!” he added, obviously a happy man!
Later, Ainsworth spoke to Sporting Life.com about how his life has changed, almost like a dream, as he is about to face Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford as caretaker manager of the Rs:
“I’ll admit I will be in awe of Sir Alex, he’s a great manager.”
‘If you’d asked me a few weeks ago then not in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be pitting myself against him.’
‘We’re the underdogs and we’re not expected to win but if we put the passion in we can achieve anything at this club. It’s going to be a massive challenge for us and an amazing experience for the boys,” he admitted.
“I’ll be a very proud man to be in the opposite dug-out to Sir Alex, it will be a big moment in my career,” he added.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson discussed his team`s performance with
‘Some of the football out there today from both teams was magnificent. I don’t think you’ll see a game as good as that anywhere else in the country,’ he admitted.
‘The chances we had in the game were incredible,’ he continued. Adding: “It was the area in which we let ourselves down.”
Ferguson did feel his team should, and could, have got something out of the game ‘I think if we`d got one when Ronaldo got his great chance, then we`d have got something out of the game.’
‘In fairness to my own team, after the second goal their determination and drive to try and rescue the game was fantastic, and we probably deserved something from the game, I think,’ he added.
Ferguson paid tribute to Arsenal`s victory by admitting that: “Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and say ‘if you`re going to get beaten, just make sure it`s someone who`s going to play football`, and Arsenal played good football at times.”
Manchester United Team News:
Early indications are that Ferguson will make whole-scale changes from the team which lost to Arsenal on the weekend. However, those who come in will have plenty of first-team experience between them.
Full-back Rafael Da Silva, who scored United`s consolation goal at Arsenal on Saturday, is expected to start for the Reds after coming off the bench at The Emirates Stadium. Defenders John O`Shea and Jonny Evans and midfielders Ji-Sung Park and veteran Ryan Giggs are all expected to feature against the Rs.
Teeange Brazilian Rodrigo Possebon will start after recovering from an injury sustained in the 3rd round tie against Middlesbrough. Angolan striker Manucho and Danny Welbeck (striker) are also expected to start, which could mean that there would again be no place for Carlos Tevez who has only started four times this season for the Reds.
But Patrice Evra will definitely not feature as he had to have a protective cast put on his right ankle after the game at The Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
The Reds squad for tomorrow night is: Kuszczak, Foster, Amos, Rafael, Evans, Cleverley, O’Shea, Chester, Possebon, Gibson, Hewson, Fletcher, Park, Anderson, Carrick, Nani, Giggs, Welbeck, Manucho, Rooney, Tevez
Player to watch: Ji-Sung Park
It is difficult to pick one particular player to watch from a Manchester United side which oozes class in every position. To find out more about Ji-Sung Park, go to Click Here >>>
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
Ainsworth should be taking a fully fit squad up to Old Trafford tomorrow night. However, he will again be without Mikele Leigertwood, who will serve the third of his four-match ban, and long-term injury victim Rowan Vine.
Ainsworth admitted after the Cardiff game that he had a nice dilemma ahead of Tuesday night with Buzsaky coming on for Ledesma and doing such a fantastic job on Saturday afternoon. Buzsaky could, therefore, retain his place in the starting line-up. He will probably also feel that a recall to the starting line-up for Saturday`s goal hero, Gavin Mahon, may be in order. Tommasi could drop to the bench, unless Gaz opts for a 4-5-1 formation; in which case there would be room for both players.
Gaz will also have to decide who he wants to start up front, and with what formation, having opted for 4-4-2 at home against Cardiff and Birmingham, but playing 4-4-1-1 away to Ipswich. Agyemang`s appearance as substitute against Cardiff will have done his chances of a starting place no harm although, if Ainsworth opts for 4-4-1-1, Agyemang may have to be content with a place on the bench to start with
I do not anticipate any changes in defence, with Cerny in goal, Ramage and Connolly in the full-back positions, and Stewart and Hall centre defence. This worked very well against Cardiff, Connolly effectively adapting to the left-back position as if he had played their all his career!
Delaney will probably start on the bench, as on Saturday. And he could be joined by Real Madrid loanee, Daniel Parejo, who was not even on the bench for Cardiff`s visit.
Player to watch: Matthew Connolly
The versatile, young defender has been a stalwart this season. He has been one of our most consistent performers, although a rush of blood to the head in the away game against Norwich back in early September meant he saw red for the first (and only, I hope) time this season.
Matthew Connolly joined Rangers in January 2008 from Arsenal and made an immediate impact on the defence as Rangers began a run of results which ensured their continued status in the Championship beyond 2007/2008.
Connolly`s preferred position is in central defence, where he has been masterful this season, linking up well with Damion Stewart when replacing the injured Fitz Hall earlier this season. However, he is a versatile defender and has played across the pitch for us, usually as right-back, vying with Peter Ramage for that spot.
On Saturday, against Cardiff, however, Connolly effectively illustrated his adaptability as he effortlessly slotted into the left-back position usually occupied by Damian Delaney. Connolly linked up very well with Lee Cook down the left, causing Cardiff many problems down that wing. It seemed as if Cook and Connolly had played together many times previously! Connolly even had the confidence to try a shot himself – although it ended up flying over the Cardiff cross-bar!
With Manchester United playing their young strikers tomorrow night, our defence will need to be quick and alert – and who better than Matthew Connolly?
Match Facts & Stats
Manchester United: Last 5 Games: D W W D L
QPR: Last 5 Games: D D W L W
Rangers do not have an impressive away record this season. In the league, the Rs have won only once away from home – a 1-0 victory at Norwich back in September. We have drawn three of our other away games: at Bristol City, Swansea and Reading; and lost four times: to Sheffield United, Coventry, Birmingham and Ipswich. We have only managed to score twice away from Loftus Road but have conceded eight times on our travels
The good news, however, is that our away record in the Carling Cup is much more impressive. In Round One, we beat Swindon Town 3-2 at the County Ground back in August, with goals from Angelo Balanta, Dexter Blackstock and Damien Delaney. That was followed by a trip to Villa Park in the Third Round where a stunning header from Jamaican international Damion Stewart ended Aston Villa`s hopes of proceeding into the next round.
HEAD 2 HEAD
Manchester United: 27
Last time out
Saturday 16th March 1996 – Loftus Road
QPR1 (Dennis Irwin o.g.)
Manchester United 1(Eric Cantona)
Rangers Team: Juergen Sommer, David Bardsley, Rufus Brevett, Alan McDonald, Steve Yates, Simon Barker, Ian Holloway, Nigel Quashie (Andrew Impey 45), Daniele Dichio (Mark Hateley 80), Kevin Gallen (Karl Ready 84), Trevor Sinclair.
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I`m sorry to admit that I do not feel overly optimistic about our chances up at Old Trafford – it will be anything but “a walk in the park”. However, Aston Villa had several first-team players gracing the pitch in the last round. We were not intimidated there and won. We have also gone to Chelsea this year and played very respectably, stopping the Blues from scoring against us and only going down to an own goal deflected in his net by the luckless Lee Camp. Rangers will have to be on the very, very best of form with everyone firing and working together, but I still feel this as a tall order for us. Which is why I predict:
Sandydl`s Prediction: 2-0 to Manchester United
Where– Loftus Road
When– Saturday 15th November: 3:00pm.