The clash between Manchester United and Queens Park Rangers on Easter Sunday will bring back many happy memories for one ex player, the former QPR striker Dennis Bailey.
Just over 20 years ago on 1 January 1992 Bailey scored a hat trick against United at Old Trafford in a thrilling match which QPR memorably won 4-1. He remains the only player in the league to have scored a hat trick against United at home.
“QPR are a rejuvenated side and after their recent wins against Liverpool and Arsenal anything is possible” insists Bailey. “The desire to escape relegation will mean they will be taking the game to United. The defence have been shored up and are much tighter under Mark Hughes. QPR will be more confident following their recent successes and there will be a greater belief they can get a positive result from this game. However, given United’s form and the importance of the game to the championship a point would be a good result.”
United won 2-0 when the two teams met in December but QPR's 2-1 win against Arsenal last Sunday has given them renewed hope that this time the result could be different. That game also ended a long goal drought for the Moroccan striker Adel Taarabt, who was voted the Football League’s best player last season, bringing to an end 21 successive games without finding the back of the net. “There is no doubt that Taarabt will be key” states Bailey “because he is QPR's most creative player and he is capable of the unexpected. He reminds me a lot of Roy Wegerle because he can produce that bit of magic”.
Bailey, a born again Christian, retired in 2006 and now coaches young people but continues to play for his local church, Renewal, based in Solihull. He is good friends with the ex Barnsley and Burton Albion player Darren Moore who also attends and runs a charity called Faith and Football.
“It’s significant that they are playing on Easter Sunday. I would have loved to have been at the game but unfortunately it was switched from Saturday. So instead I will be spending the time with my family and going to church although I will of course keep an eye on the result. I’m not against teams playing on a Sunday but I think the Premier League should respect Easter because it’s the time that Jesus died and rose again for us. When you look at what has happened recently to Fabrice Muamba and Stiliyan Petrov it has brought the football world together. During this time our prayers and thoughts need to be with them and their families. That’s what Easter is all about”.
Bailey’s feat of scoring a hat trick against United remains unequalled apart from Ronaldo, the famous Brazilian striker, who scored three for Real Madrid in a Champions League match at Old Trafford in 2003 but ended up on the losing side. His three goals, faith and enthusiasm for the game resulted in a glowing testimonial in Alex Ferguson's autobiography ‘Managing my life' published in 1999. “Their centre-forward, Dennis Bailey, thanked God after the good fortune of his hat-trick. I don’t blame him. Hat-tricks by opposing players are rare enough at Old Trafford to invite suspicion of the supernatural. Bailey did push his luck a little when he bounced into our dressing room, full of the joys, wanting our players to sign the match ball”.
Supernatural intervention or not, Ferguson will be quietly praying that 20 years on fate doesn’t repeat itself this Easter Sunday.