United bare teeth and show title credentials


QPR manager Neil Warnock tipped the Premier League title race to be one of the closest ever after seeing his team become the latest victims of champions Manchester United’ resurgence.

A first-minute header from Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick’s second-half solo goal did scant justice to the glut of chances created by United.

It completed back-to-back victories since the visitors’ shock Champions League elimination and briefly put them top – at least until rivals Manchester City beat Arsenal.

And Warnock, whose team remain 15th, three points above the relegation zone, expects United – and City, Chelsea, Liverpool, the Gunners and Spurs – to take the title to the wire.

“You could just toss a coin at the minute, I think they’ve all got opportunities and that includes Tottenham and Arsenal,” he said.

“I wouldn’t write anybody off. I don’t think there’s a lot between them. I think it’s going to be the closest for many years.”

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson played down the significance of returning to first place, albeit temporarily, saying: “The important thing is to be there on New Year’s Day. If you’re involved right at the top part then you know the second half of the season, we’ll relish that.”

United arrived knowing three points would put them top, for a few hours at least, and they wasted little time in seizing control.

Just 54 seconds had elapsed when Rooney flung himself at Luis Antonio Valencia's first-time right-wing cross and glanced a header across and beyond Radek Cerny.

Heidar Helguson tested David de Gea and Jay Bothroyd twice shot wide but QPR's attacks were clumsy and tentative compared to United's frequent's rapier-like breaks. Jonny Evans headed onto the top of QPR's bar while Cerny thwarted Phil Jones after one of the midfielder's lung-bursting dashes and then exhibited razor-sharp refexes to deny Danny Welbeck.

But if the Rangers goalkeeper saved his team-mates in the first period he let them down after the interval when he allowed Carrick's shot to dribble in for the second goal, after the United man had slalomed 50 yards from his own half and drilled low.

Jones almost enjoyed the goal his dynamism deserved, sidefooting onto the post, while QPR sub DJ Campbell contrived to volley over from inside the six-yard area, as United closed on a win that kept the pressure on their neighbours.