Manchester United v QPR
Manchester United hope to bounce back from consecutive 1-0 defeats on Saturday, when struggling QPR visit Old Trafford in the Barclays Premier League.
The Reds face the Hoops with renewed focus, following a shock loss to Norwich City at Carrow Road and Tuesday’s disappointment against Galatasaray in the UEFA Champions League.
Sir Alex Ferguson, whose commemorative statue will be unveiled outside the Theatre of Dreams on Friday, will be confident of beating Mark Hughes’ side, who are enduring a dismal run of form.
Here, ahead of Saturday’s 3 p.m. GMT kickoff, I assess the key battles that might help decide the match...
Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand.
Manchester United‘s veteran defender Rio Ferdinand did not travel to Istanbul this week, opting instead to stay at home and rest ahead of this weekend’s top-flight clash with QPR.
Although not expected to endure a busy afternoon against the Premier League’s joint lowest scorers, the centre-back should remain on guard against the Hoops’ primary attacking weapon, Djibril Cisse.
The French striker, formerly of Liverpool and Marseille, is yet to score this season but has impressed fans at Loftus Road of late, producing several committed, energetic displays.
If Mark Hughes' men are to trouble the scorekeepers, which appears unlikely, then Cisse is probably the man to make it happen.
Manchester United's Antonio Valencia
Antonio Valencia is yet to hit top form this season and has so far, barring the odd flash of brilliance, failed to live up to the impeccable standards that were set during the 2011-12 campaign.
However, a home match against Jose Bosingwa and QPR’s frankly disorganised defence is arguably the perfect opportunity to set the ball rolling for another fruitful campaign.
Bosingwa, signed from Chelsea in the summer, is riddled with inconsistencies but is likely to start in the absence of Fabio da Silva, who is ineligible to face United as part of a season-long loan deal.
The Hoops' Portuguese defender has struggled against a plethora of pacey wingers this term and is yet to settle alongside his new teammates.
Manchester United's Robin van Persie.
Sir Alex Ferguson opted to rest Robin van Persie for Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League defeat to Galatasaray and, as a result, the Dutchman is likely to be fresh for Saturday’s clash with QPR.
RvP has been a sensation at Old Trafford since signing from Arsenal in the summer, scoring an impressive 11 goals in just 14 appearances. Aided by great movement and tactical intelligence, the 29-year-old is set to trouble veteran Hoops defender Ryan Nelson.
The New Zealand international, signed on a free transfer in the summer, is an admirable player with commendable leadership skills. In terms of physicality, however, the former Tottenham man lacks pace and could be exposed on Saturday.
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney
Like striker partner Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney did not travel to Istanbul during the week, in favour of some much-needed rest and rehabilitation at home in Manchester.
As a result, the England international is in line to return against QPR and should start just behind the Dutchman, playing in the deeper, withdrawn role that earned so many plaudits this season.
Anton Ferdinand, brother of Rio, regularly plays a more flexible and fluid defensive role alongside the more rigid Ryan Nelson. Therefore, the former Sunderland man will probably be volunteered to cover the movement of Rooney, who could run riot at Old Trafford given the chance.