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13:43 21st December 2011
By  @OfficialQPR


Goals in each half from Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick saw Manchester United return to the top of the Barclays Premier League table at Loftus Road.

In a battle between last season's Champions from the top-flight and Football League, Sir Alex Ferguson's men - defeated only once in the league this season - were excellent value for their victory.

Rooney put United in front after just 57 seconds, expertly nodding home Antonio Valencia's cross from the right.

Rangers grew stronger as the first half progressed but hopes of getting back into this contest were ultimately dashed when Carrick slotted home a second for the visitors 11 minutes after the interval.

R's boss Neil Warnock made two changes to his starting line-up for the visit of United.

Heidar Helguson - who missed last weekend's defeat at Liverpool owing to a knock - returned to the starting eleven at the expense of Tommy Smith.

Anton Ferdinand, meanwhile, was forced to sit out against brother Rio's side with a hamstring injury, with Fitz Hall taking his place.

Radek Cerny kept his place in goal for the R's.

Luke Young, Hall, Danny Gabbidon and Armand Traore lined up in defence.

Jamie Mackie began from the right-hand side of midfield, with skipper Joey Barton and Ale Faurlin in the centre and Shaun Wright-Phillips operating from the left.

Helguson was joined by Jay Bothroyd in attack.

United wasted little time in stamping their mark on this affair - it was little less than a minute, in fact, when Rooney struck the opening goal.

The England striker - hot from his double that helped sink Wolves at Old Trafford last Saturday - exchanged passes with Valencia, before the latter found space down the right.

The wide-man's delivery thereafter was to a tee, finding the head Rooney, who expertly guided the ball into the left-hand side of the net.

Two minutes later, United almost doubled their lead. Rooney and Nani combined to put Danny Welbeck through on goal, before the front-man forced a fine block from Cerny.

The R's fashioned their first attempt on five minutes. Barton played a neat ball into Wright-Phillips, whose drive from 25 yards whistled just over the bar.

Rangers again went close just a minute later. Helguson nodded Barton's corner from the right just past the upright.

United, it must be said, were in control midway into first half - keeping possession extremely well.

QPR would, however, go close on the counter attack in the 18th minute.

Barton freed Mackie on the right and, when the industrious attacker fed Bothroyd in the box, he could only blaze an effort - albeit with his weaker right foot - over the bar.

But United were soon back on the attack. Jonny Evans somehow crashed a header from a corner against the bar from all of three-yards out on 28 minutes.

Just a minute later, the R's had Cerny to thank for keeping the margin to just a single goal.

Rooney's sublime pass left QPR's back four for dead and, when Phil Jones stole in the try and slide an effort past Cerny, the keeper's trailing right leg wide diverted the ball wide for a corner.

The Czech custodian was at it again on 31 minutes.

Nani's corner from the left eventually ended in Rooney seeing a side-footed effort blocked on the line, before Welbeck's blast from the rebound forced a stunning point-blank save from Cerny.

QPR improved as the first half wore on. Bothroyd's flick-on after a long kick from Cerny saw Helguson steal in to force a smart save from David De Gea.

Bothroyd then smashed over the loose ball.

The former Cardiff City forward went closer with an effort on 33 minutes.

Traore's centre from the left was cleared by Ferdinand only as far as Bothroyd on the edge of the penalty area, whose shot on the volley flew just wide of the post.

This was much better from the R's - who went mightily close to drawing level on the stroke of half-time.

Superb possession football from Rangers eventually saw the ball find Bothroyd on the left, before his teasing ball across the six-yard box somehow went out - without a touch - for a goal kick.

QPR's performance towards the end of the first period would have given them much hope going into the second - but they still would have to be wary of the threat posed by United on the counter attack.

Rooney exemplified that point, forcing a low stop from Cerny just a minute after break.

United would, however, find a second goal on 56 minutes.

Barton was dispossessed by Carrick on halfway and, when the cultured midfielder drove up to the edge of the box, he coolly slotted an effort into the net, despite a touch from Cerny.

The visitors should have added another just three minutes later - but an unmarked Rooney could only guide an effort over the bar, after Valencia's ball from the right eventually found the former Everton hot-shot at the back post.

United again went within a whisker of extending their lead on 69 minutes, after Jones' low shot from 20 yards smashed against the bottom left-hand post and back into play.

Rangers themselves should have found a goal to reduce the deficit six minutes later.

Faurlin's clever pass found Adel Taarabt on the left-hand edge of the box and, when his pinpoint cross found fellow substitute DJ Campbell on six yards, he somehow diverted the ball over the bar, when it appeared easier to find the target.

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