United in sweat over Van Persie after freak TV injury
Manchester Utd 2
Manchester United are waiting to discover the full extent of Robin van Persie's hip injury after the striker was hurt in a bizarre incident when he tumbled into a pitchside camera pit.
The Dutchman fell into a television cameraman's dugout in the build-up to United's first goal in the 2-0 win over Queen's Park Rangers at Loftus Road on Saturday and was substituted before half-time.
United may be able to do without him against Norwich City next Saturday but will definitely want him fully fit when Real Madrid arrive with a 1-1 aggregate score in the Champions League three days later. "Hopefully he'll be all right," Alex Ferguson said. "He tried to play on but it was obvious he wasn't going to make it. I would imagine he will be very tender and sore for a few days."
Despite losing to United a year ago, Harry Redknapp at Tottenham was at least looking in the same direction as Ferguson, with only one place between them at the top of the table. As the two old adversaries enter March this time, their aims and outlooks could hardly be more different.
Next weekend, as United prepare to extend their lead in the Premier League even further, Redknapp's QPR will still be looking up at the rest from a position seven points adrift. They go next to Southampton, a prospect that had their manager at his most sardonic, knowing his reputation there: "It's my 66th birthday and I thought there is no better way to spend my birthday than 90 minutes getting abuse at Southampton Football Club. They'll be calling me 'scummer' for my time at Portsmouth."
Three points would make up for any amount of personal abuse, but for that Rangers are effectively dependent on two players who are less than 100pc fit in Bobby Zamora and Loïc Rémy.
Against United, one replaced the other after an hour and although Rémy brought David de Gea's only save of the game, their team have now scored four times in 10 games. "Bobby's got a bad hip, he needs an operation really, but even a half-fit Bobby Zamora is still a top player," Redknapp said. "If I can get him and Rémy together they can give us something. The problem is we have scored 19 goals all season."
Van Persie has that many by himself and the value to United of having four international strikers was demonstrated when Danny Welbeck was able to replace the Dutchman just before half-time and Wayne Rooney took over from a misfiring Javier Hernandez. Van Persie having been instrumental in setting up the first goal, hammered in at 62mph by the adventurous right-back Rafael da Silva, the two substitutes then combined with Nani to put Ryan Giggs in for the second, thereby ending any chance of Rangers stealing an unlikely point.
While statisticians argue about whether Giggs has reached 1,000 senior games yet or is still on 999, everyone present at Loftus Road was left just to marvel at him. "It is getting boring," said Brazilian Rafael Da Silva, whose stunning opening goal was overshadowed by Giggs strike. "He is an unbelievable player. Every game you see him, he works hard, scores, makes assists. He is the same in training, he just loves to play the game.
"He is one of the top players that I have played with. He gives us experience, confidence, and when you are feeling bad he comes and helps you, especially young players."
Giggs's continuing excellence may be predictable, but it is the title race that is in danger of becoming tedious. After the last-gasp disappointment of last season, Ferguson's men are turning this campaign into a procession, helped by performances such as Saturday's.
Giggs truly is the wonder of the Premier League age. Over 22 years with United, he has matured from unplayable winger, the "Jack Russell chasing a scrap of silver paper" in Ferguson's memorable phrase, into a man capable of controlling a top-flight match from central midfield in the year of his 40th birthday.
There is something almost poignant in watching Giggs these days. His nascent bald spot is a marker of the passing years for besotted spectators, and while age has reduced his pace, it has not withered his football intelligence. Giggs may not be the explosive presence of old but he is just as effective, particularly against opponents as bereft of confidence as the Premier League's bottom side.
"Top-class, an amazing player," said Redknapp. "Very difficult to think of anyone (with his longevity) especially now in today's modern football, the speed of the game."
In considering his own expensively assembled squad, the Rangers manager has to keep believing and hope his players share his optimism. The only cause for it would appear to be that, as he pointed out, fixtures remain against all the other strugglers and stragglers: "There's enough games left, 11 games. It is wide open. We have got to go to Villa, we have got to go to Reading, we have got Wigan here; I still fancy us. We've got nothing to lose; everyone thinks we are gone.
"You can change it so quickly. At Portsmouth (in 2006) I had a crap team and we got 20 points from 10 games and stayed up. It ain't impossible. I have got to be upbeat. I am looking forward to the challenge." (© Daily Telegraph, London)