Queens Park Rangers are in disarray—bottom of the table and the manager currently liked less than a beach ball at Anfield. Manchester United, however, are flying—just one point behind their noisy neighbors, and players such as Chicarito are in fine form, doing their utmost to prove they deserve a starting role.
On paper, United should roll Rangers over at Old Trafford pretty easily, and the betting man or woman will likely put their house on the fact that they will. But there are still some glimmers of hope that QPR can cling on to, to give them belief that they could actually beat the Red Devils.
Rangers haven't beaten Manchester United since New Year's Day in 1992—and fans remember Dennis Bailey fondly for that game. Still the last player to ever score a hat-trick against United at Old Trafford in the top flight, perhaps a new age Ranger might surprise the Manchester defense and take that accolade for themselves.
Okay, a thrashing of the Red Devils on their home turf is unlikely. But is sneaking a win that ridiculous a suggestion? Read on to find out.
Mark Hughes should have rolled out a banner at training this week that read "Anything they can do, we can do better."
Norwich City surprised United last weekend, and Hughes will be hoping to take a little comfort from that result and build on the Canaries' success.
Granted, there are a few differences between this weekend and last. Norwich were at home whereas Rangers are away. Chris Hughton has won the fans around, whereas Hughes is rapidly losing them. Norwich beat Arsenal and have performed well in recent weeks, and Rangers did not and have not.
But, despite all that, Rangers and their fans will be thinking: if Norwich can beat United, why can't we?
That was the thought process of Galatasaray winger Nordin Amrabat (via BBC); we shall see if that attitude works out when they face off in the Champions League Tuesday.
Mark Hughes has been the topic of discussion for most R's fans in recent weeks, with the grumbles turning into catcalls, turning into boos and finally resulting in "Hughes Out" chants during the loss to Southampton last weekend.
However despite speculation on Monday that Hughes had been sacked (via Evening Standard), he remains the QPR manager—for now. What will concern the Welshman, however, is that he hasn't received the customary message of support from chairman Tony Fernandes after last weekend.
Hughes will be looking to reaffirm the faith the owner has put in him so publicly. He will be looking to prove the doubters wrong, and try to win those fans who have written him off and called for his head.
It'll be squeaky bum time for both managers come Saturday—but will it be Fergie Time or time finally running out for Hughes that grabs the headlines in the Sunday papers?
There is no hiding from the fact that Manchester United's defense is one of the weakest components of their game. And although QPR aren't exactly knocking them in for fun, this stat will give Hughes and his men hope.
United have conceded 11 goals in the last seven games, including two against another struggling team: Aston Villa (via BBC). Rio Ferdinand is getting slower, Chris Smalling sometimes looks unfit and out of his depth, and full-backs Rafael da Silva and Patrice Evra appear to forget that they are actually in the team to defend.
If Rangers capitalize on United's sloppy defending, they may well grab a result. And they will be fully aware that one chance is all it could take: One chance. One goal. One win.
Seems easy really, doesn't it?
Despite poor performances against Southampton, Reading, Swansea and countless others, Queens Park Rangers have actually done OK against the top teams.
Draws with Everton and Chelsea and narrow defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal (via Soccerbase) showed glimpses of the class Rangers possess. QPR seem to perform better against better teams; they raise their game to meet their opponents and this can only mean good things for Rangers.
United are undoubtedly one of the best in the league, and if Rangers can push themselves to play to their standard, then they might—might—have a chance.
You don't need me to tell you that Rangers have been below average (at best) this season, and many are predicting a royal rumble when they visit Old Trafford. But this could well work in their favor.
Sir Alex Ferguson isn't a fresh-faced manager, and his experience in the Premier League has left him as the best manager in the past 20 years (via Premier League). However in the previous three seasons, Ferguson has slipped up against struggling teams time and time again.
Already having mentioned Norwich City from this year, United have lost to Blackburn Rovers, Wigan Athletic, West Ham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Burnley (via Soccerbase) since 2010. Ferguson's team may not consciously underestimate teams, but history proves that struggling teams do actually have more of a chance of getting a result than they think.
It is a long shot to suggest QPR could beat the Red Devils—but stranger things have happened. Rangers surely have to win at some point, so what's to say it won't be against Manchester United?