Neil Warnock: I can't wait for United but Dyer injury shows life can be cruel

What I Learnt This Week

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The Independent Football

The local derby against Chelsea was a great occasion; it was a terrific night when Manchester City, the league leaders, came to Loftus Road; but tomorrow lunchtime the Sky cameras return for what is probably the biggest game of all when the champions visit us.

There is something about Manchester United that gets the pulse beating faster. It's the glamour and everything to do with the club.

I'm really looking forward to the match, not least because I've rarely come face to face with United. I've managed more than 1,300 games but only four have been against Manchester United. I played them twice with Notts County, and twice with Sheffield United.

It's not many weeks since all the media were writing Man United off – don't they realise that's what spurs Sir Alex on? Yet if they beat us tomorrow they go back on top of the league, even if only for a few hours. Alex must rub his hands every time the media start on his team. He won't be alone. Just look what's happened to Wenger since the press picked on him. And now I think about it, Chelsea have picked up since AVB got some stick. So by my reckoning, if Mancini gets some stick now, they'll run away with the league – though I suppose Tottenham could catch them "now that their bubble has burst".

Enough of my riddles. I know every QPR fan tomorrow will be so looking forward to this game more than any other, many still can't believe we are eating off the top table. A whole new generation of young Hoops fans will be coming to the game, talking about seeing Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Ryan Giggs. It's not a bad team considering all the injuries United have. That's the thing about the top teams. They have such depth, and also a few more young lads they can bring in to put on the bench who are not in the 25-man squad list. That doesn't half help.

One player who won't be playing against us is Darren Fletcher. It really is an energy-sapping illness he has picked up. The medical advice has forced him to stop playing as he tries to fight back and relaunch his career. How frustrating that must be for a top player who has so much to offer.

We have our own injury problems, with the latest blow befalling poor Kieron Dyer. In a reserve game he had a recurrence of the ankle injury he suffered on the season's opening day. All the hard work he has put in to get back to fitness over the last few months has been to no avail and he has to go in on Monday for an operation.

Life does seem cruel at times and both players will be asking 'why me?', but they are both fighters and I wouldn't write either off. Kieron, although he won't play again this season, will be staying with us because he's excellent around the club, and we still think he can have an impact when he does get fit.

2. Stop press. Xmas party passed without incident

My heart skipped a bit on Sunday morning when the phone rang and it was Paul, the press officer. The lads had stayed up in Liverpool following Luis Suarez's latest demonstration of how good he is, to have their Christmas party. So before Paul could speak I said, "Don't tell me, the players' party last night." I was so relieved when he said, "No gaffer, nothing to do with that."

Thank goodness. I think they all had a good time, and it went off without incident, but the way things are these days we had taken the precaution of hiring four security men to be with them all night. You just have to do that now.

3. I am sticking up for referees – it's official

It was an intriguing match on Monday between Chelsea and Manchester City, but I have to take issue with pundits who criticised the referee Mark Clattenburg for not awarding a penalty for the "foul" on David Silva, which would have made it 2-0 to City. I thought Mark had a cracking game and that includes the penalty. I watched the incident four times and I couldn't tell 100 per cent if it was a penalty, and I don't see how a ref can give it unless he is 100 per cent sure. I have every sympathy for him.

It reminded me when I was younger, with Burton Albion in non-League. Mossley were the top dogs and I went to see them play a Lancashire derby against Runcorn. There were tackles left, right and centre, and the young ref was handling it with common sense and not dishing cards out. As I was watching I realised a man near me was an ex-referee. I said hello and he told me he was assessing the referee. I said to him, "In such a physical local derby, and being so young, isn't he doing well?" The assessor said, "He's not running his diagonals properly, and his communication with the linesman's not good enough." It just made me think back to my dad reffing. He didn't have to worry about an assessor. He could just man-manage the game and always got the respect of the players. This young referee was in total charge of one of the most difficult games in non-League and he had earned the respect of the players. Yet I knew he would get a bad mark as he didn't adhere to the assessor's checklist. What makes me feel Mark Clattenburg will also be wrongly judged for last Monday?

4. Sharon doesn't have a Monopoly on all the fun

Sharon said to me last Sunday, "You never play anything with the kids", so I played Monopoly with William. Can you believe the modern game isn't £200 for passing Go? It's £2m and it goes on a credit card.

It turns out we have the Simpsons edition. So instead of Mayfair and Park Lane it is the Springfield Glen Country Club and Burns Manor. I'm sure the fact I couldn't get my head round what was what is why he wiped the floor with me. That and the fact that for the first time in my life I was determined not to cheat. There were so many opportunities as well, as it went on for hours.

I was feeling quite proud of myself playing fairly, until I remembered I did cheat on a remortgaged property near the end, just before I threw the towel in.

On Thursday, on my day off, I went to my chairman's Formula One factory in Norfolk where his team, now called Caterham, is based. It was absolutely amazing to see how they develop everything.

I had to rush back to pick William up from school as they had finished for Christmas. He was playing nicely with his mates so I asked if they wanted to bring a couple back for a sleepover, then go training with us on Friday. That might sound a mistake, especially as Sharon was away with Amy, but we had a great night. They played rugby in the lounge, having moved all the breakable things we could see, then a feast, a Chinese takeaway. Just like the good mum I am I did all the washing up afterwards while the lads played on the Xbox.

5. My shock at winning Sports Personality

I had some good news this week when BBC Radio London presented me with a lovely trophy for being BBC London Sports Personality of the Year 2011. I would like to thank all my family for voting well into the night for all those days. Only joking, thanks to everyone involved in the selection.

6. I'm not in my element discussing Higgs boson

Is it me, or am I just thick? I listened to every news bulletin to see if I could grasp exactly what the Higgs boson is, and I still haven't got a clue. They obviously don't do news bulletins for people with average intelligence.

Talking about TV, so what if the polar bear babies in Frozen Planet were in a zoo? Or in somebody's bath? It doesn't bother me, it's still a fantastic programme, and if they have to do something like that to get pictures they are unable to film in the Arctic, I am not bothered. The series was amazing, we should concentrate on all the good things about it. It is the only programme we've all watched as a family and you could hear a pin drop. I bet it would have been fantastic in 3D.

I have to finish on my favourite programme of the minute on Sky1 on Wednesday nights called The Café. There's nothing to it, and that's what I love. It just gets you feeling good through watching it, and how many things can you say that about?