It said: "Manager – Harry Redknapp" on the team sheet and the man and his overcoat also graced the directors' box. For a brief time yesterday, that seemed to be quite enough for his Midas touch to do its work.
The Queens Park Rangers fans have seen too much to imagine that Redknapp is going to arrive and whisk them away on a magic carpet ride, though. "How shit must you be, we're winning away," they sang, after Jamie Mackie put their side ahead. Mike Rigg, the technical director installed by Redknapp's predecessor Mark Hughes, wore a haunted look then too, even as the goal brought him to his feet.
It was a mere 12 minutes later that Redknapp, hunkered up against the rain in his seat between Rangers chief executive Phil Beard and shareholder Kamarundin Bin Meranun, witnessed the size of the challenge. Three Manchester United goals in the space of seven minutes revealed the brittleness of a defence which Hughes had worried about ever since the personal terms demanded by Michael Dawson saw his move from Tottenham Hotspur break down this summer. It is rotten to the core.
Redknapp, who did not speak to the players or caretaker manager Mark Bowen before the game, warned after his two-and-a-half-year contract at Loftus Road was announced yesterday morning that the players were to blame for this predicament. "They have not performed to their potential," he said. "They have to be at it. The buck stops with them," he said.
He will bring in Kevin Bond, Joe Jordan and goalkeeping coach David Coles to help him secure the £1million survival bonus. One of Hughes' Welsh triumvirate of Bowen, Eddie Niedzwiecki and Rigg may get the option to stay – most likely Rigg, who could have a role in the overhaul of the club infrastructure which Team Hughes felt was 30 years out of date. It is almost certainly goodbye for Bowen. "Harry will have his way of doing things. There will be no gripes," the Welshman said last night. "Whatever will be will be."
But scoring goals and keeping them out are the issue for Rangers now and solutions will cost. "I didn't say I wanted money to spend. There are some good players here and we need to get them performing so come January we might not need too much," Redknapp declared but despite Rangers' initial heroics United only really played for those seven minutes – and still wafted them away. Redknapp has released Adel Taarabt once before – from Spurs, where he said that the player's unpredictability was giving Luca Modric a nervous breakdown, and he is unlikely to have felt much different on this evidence. Djibril Cissé won't have left a searing initial impression on the new boss, either. On the rare occasions that Rangers broke there were simply no options. Redknapp, who has Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora long-term injured, will be crying out for a workable striker. Expect him to go back to Spurs for Dawson.
Bowen provided a sense of what the future holds when he dispensed with the flair players Hughes has lavished funds on and opted for dependability by selecting Shaun Derry, Clint Hill and Mackie in his starting line-up. "Today's team was my choice," Bowen said. "It's difficult because we've brought a lot of players into the club and they have got talents but some have wanted for the intensity and desire needed in the Premier League. Today I wanted players who maybe have more knowledge of the League."
Hill impressed and there was also another performance of note from Ryan Nelsen, from whom Hughes expected little when offering him a one-year contract, but who has been one of the few pleasant surprises. Redknapp and Bond know a lot about Nelsen, who was contemplating a move to the United States or his New Zealand homeland when he was being offloaded by Blackburn Rovers, who paid Spurs to take him last season. Nelsen illustrates how Redknapp will import an eye for players are truly up to the Premier League.
Redknapp's midas touch is not quite as golden as it might seem. His Southampton side were relegated when he inherited the 18th placed side in December 2004 and though he kept Portsmouth up twice after taking over mid-season, the club dropped two places before the end of 2001-02 season and rose only one place in 2005-06. It was at Tottenham – 20th when he arrived in October 2008 but eight by the end of the 2008-09 season – that he made his reputation as a saviour. The game was 84 minutes old and out of sight when he rose from his seat, turned up his collar against the teeming rain and left the bleak arena, considerably more aware of the task in hand.
Manchester Utd (4-4-1-1): Lindegaard; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Young (Anderson, 59), Scholes (Hernandez, 59), Fletcher, Rooney; Van Persie; Welbeck.
QPR (4-4-2): Julio César; Traoré (Ferdinand, 61), Nelsen, Hill, Derry; Dyer, Taarabt (Hoilett, 73), Faurlin (Granero, 84), Mbia; Cissé, Mackie.
Referee: Lee Probert
Man of the match: Anderson (Man Utd)
Match rating: 6/10
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