Rafael stunner piles on misery for QPR
Rafael's exquisite strike helped Manchester United stay on course for the Barclays Premier League title as embattled QPR's survival hopes took another blow after a 2-0 defeat.
The Brazilian right-back's first-half effort set Sir Alex Ferguson's on course for a victory, which was wrapped up 10 minutes from time by veteran Ryan Giggs.
Only an unparalleled meltdown will now stop United winning a 20th league crown, while only the greatest of escapes will see QPR stave off relegation.
Harry Redknapp's side are still seven points adrift of safety but have only 11 matches remaining, with the twin brother of QPR loanee Fabio doing a lot of the damage.
While the R's full-back was ineligible to face his parent club, Rafael put in a fine performance in west London and rifled home from distance in the 23rd minute.
Giggs made sure of a victory that was never really in doubt late on at Loftus Road, where the only blot on a perfect afternoon for United was a knock to Robin van Persie.
Proceedings got off to a slow start in west London, where it took 13 minutes for the first chance of note to be created.
After being caught on the edge of the box by Jose Bosingwa - making his first appearance since December 8 - Nani connected with the resulting free-kick, only to see his flicked header go wide.
Adel Taarabt fired a low shot just wide of David de Gea's near post soon after but United were in control.
Julio Cesar had to be alert to tip a goalbound Javier Hernandez effort over the bar, with the Mexican meeting a Ashley Young cross with a superb improvised header.
Stephane Mbia soon gifted United another chance. The midfielder was dispossessed on the right flank by Nani, whose driven cross just evaded Hernandez.
United did not have to wait long for the opener, though, with Rafael thumping home in style after 23 minutes.
Taarabt lost possession in his own half and play developed down the right, allowing Van Persie to wriggle free and hit a cross. Cesar parried the acute drive but the ball fell kindly for Rafael, who hammered a 25-yard strike into the top corner.
Jamie Mackie and Andros Townsend blazed over as QPR attempted to draw parity before Taarabt struck tamely wide when a wide ball to Townsend would have been wiser.
When the Tottenham loanee did get the ball moments later, his long-range effort forced a corner from which Christopher Samba saw a header cleared off the line by Rafael.
The right-back, playing superbly in Shepherds Bush, then helped United counter, sending a fine ball over the top to Van Persie, who saw a brilliant left-footed volley denied in equally impressive fashion by Cesar.
It was the Netherlands international's last contribution before he was replaced by Danny Welbeck, having appeared to pick up a hip complaint earlier in the half.
Despite his exit, United continued to dominate and almost immediately doubled their advantage as Giggs swung in a free-kick for the unmarked Nemanja Vidic to flash a header inches wide.
It was the last moment of note in the first period, which ended with Bobby Zamora, managing a long-term hip injury, pulling up.
The former Fulham striker managed to return for the second half unlike Esteban Granero, who was replaced by Jermaine Jenas after picking up a knock.
United continued strongly after the break but QPR were putting up more of a fight, with Taarabt seeing penalty appeals waved away.
The visitors were still threatening, though, and Hernandez saw an effort saved easily by Cesar before he was replaced by Wayne Rooney, who has been suffering with a sinus problem this week.
QPR also made a change in the 61st minute, with Zamora limping off to be replaced by Loic Remy - a change that almost paid dividends straight away.
The January signing made himself space in the box to unleash a well-struck effort that De Gea head to be alert to stop, with Samba heading wide from the following corner.
United soon settled, though, and QPR captain Clint Hill did well to block a close-range strike by substitute Rooney, before Jenas put in an equally-impressively challenge to deny Welbeck.
The visitors did grab a second goal 10 minutes from time as Nani played a cute ball through to Giggs, whose strike from an acute angle beat Cesar to send the 3,081 visiting supporters into raptures.
Giggs saw a looped strike rattle the crossbar and a Samba header brushed the post late on but there was to be no more goals despite the best efforts of both sides.