FOR about 12 minutes at Old Trafford it appeared Harry Redknapp might have transformed Queens Park Rangers’ fortunes just by breathing on them. The former Tottenham manager was present in a watching capacity, sitting in the main stand between the QPR chief executive, Philip Beard, and the shareholder Kamarudin Bin Meranun, yet he saw the Premier League‘s bottom club withstand Manchester United for the first half and take an early lead in the second.
No miracle resulted, however, and by the end of the game normal service had been resumed, as United won 3-1. Redknapp, who to the surprise of no one was confirmed as the new QPR manager on Saturday morning, will be familiar with United’s habit of waiting to go behind before producing their best football. Three goals in eight minutes later, United were back at the top of the table and QPR still as firmly rooted to the bottom.
That meant the only surprise of the afternoon was Redknapp promising not to spend a fortune in January. “The players at QPR have not performed to their potential,” he said. “The players have to be at it, the buck stops with them. I didn’t tell the club I wanted money to spend, I have not even discussed that situation. There are some good players here and if we can get them performing then come January, we might not need so much.”
QPR performed well for an hour, and Sir Alex Ferguson thought Redknapp’s arrival might have galvanised them. “You generally get that when you change managers,” he said. “QPR came here with a surge of determination and we found them hard to break down at first.”
Mark Bowen, assistant manager to the deposed Mark Hughes, supervised from the touchline. “As a unit we looked solid and did well up to a point,” he said. “Then the roof caved in. You know you are going to come under pressure here but we weren’t helped by individuals not doing their jobs at set plays.”
Bowen is waiting to hear whether he will be retained by Redknapp, who has signed a two-and-a-half year contract with Rangers, who are 20th and five points behind 17th-placed Reading. “We can’t get any lower,” said Redknapp. “We are rock bottom and we have to try and get up that table. I remember when I was at Portsmouth and we stayed up with a game to go at Wigan – it was the most fantastic feeling. The club had a good manager in Mark Hughes but for whatever reason it did not work out. We now have to produce in the last two thirds of the season to try and get out of trouble. Mark lost his job, but the players have to be man enough to know they are to blame for the position we are in.”
Redknapp, who will take charge for Rangers’ visit to Sunderland on Tuesday, was the primary target of Tony Fernandes, the QPR owner. “Harry was our No1 target, the unanimous choice of the board,” Fernandes said. “He has a proven track record in the Premier League and has all the characteristics we were looking for to get us out of the current situation we find ourselves in. His man-management skills are second to none and we are confident he is the right man to lead us away from the bottom of the table.”
Beard said the club had given Hughes a fair chance but decided the stakes were too high to delay action any longer. “We have played 12 games without a win and felt it was time to act in the best interests of the club,” he said. “The prize of staying in the Premier League is really high and, like every club in that part of the table, we will work really hard to get out of trouble. The situation is only not salvageable when it is impossible, but ultimately three clubs won’t survive. We will be giving everything to make sure we are not one of those three, and hope we have given ourselves a chance.”