Manchester United should require no favours in their quest for a 20th championship, which is now beginning to take on the appearance of a coronation.

They got a huge one regardless after 14 minutes here when handed a penalty by Lee Mason, the referee, and his assistant Ceri Richards. Everything is coming off for Sir Alex Ferguson's side.

Wayne Rooney threaded a ball into the QPR area where Ashley Young, feeling a hand placed on him by Shaun Derry, went down precipitately. Perhaps Derry should not have touched Young, who will reject any suggestion of a dive, and maybe Mason was correct to point to the spot and show Derry the red card, the seventh of QPR's relegation-haunted season. Yet the captain's sending off made it a triple whammy of suspect officiating as Richards, perfectly in place, had failed to spot that Young was a few feet offside; had he flagged for that, QPR would have been punting the free-kick away instead of restarting 1-0 and a man down after Rooney had slotted his 29th goal of the season.

The penalty killed off both United's nerves and any hopes Manchester City might have had of a result that would place the destiny of the title back in their hands before they kicked off at Arsenal.

"You should have confidence that the referees will get the key decisions right," QPR's manager, Mark Hughes, said. "Just lately a lot of managers have lost faith in them." The club is expected to appeal against Derry's dismissal.

Ferguson agreed the officials got the incident wrong and of his side's title hopes he said: "It is important us winning today whatever happens at the Emirates. We will just have to wait. But we have done our job."

Rio Ferdinand, who had to deal with few scares in the United defence, concurred with his manager's assessment of the penalty. Regarding their ascendancy over City, whom they previously trailed for most of the season, he said: "We didn't think about getting back into this position [but] we never doubted we could put a run of games together.

"You need to get momentum at this stage of the season, that is the most important thing, making sure you get a run of games together. We have picked another one off and hopefully we can keep that going."

United dominated, each half a game of attack versus defence that featured Paul Scholes spraying passes to colleagues at will, although Ferguson had a point when he said Derry's marching orders blunted United as an attacking force.

"I'm happy we've won, it's the name of the game at the moment," the manager said. "But to be honest the sending-off gave us too much of a comfort zone. I don't think we had a shot at goal in the first half. At least in the second half we improved on that part and had lots of shots on goal and a few chances."

The visitors had their moments, though these were rare. In the first half David de Gea made his sole save of the contest when Adel Taarabt's deflected shot looped under his crossbar, and the story of United's dominance is found in the passing statistics: 664 completed from 734 attempts against the 210 managed from 269 made by their visitors.

Nevertheless, before Scholes added the second goal there was still the niggling possibility of QPR scoring an equaliser, as Ferguson acknowledged. "Absolutely. It only takes a second to lose a goal or score one. We kept missing at vital moments – Danny Welbeck was through, we hit the post and the bar," he said of chances for Michael Carrick and Rafael da Silva, respectively.

"The second goal from Paul Scholes calmed everyone down. He's capable of that and should perhaps have been having more shots. But we just didn't shoot enough from outside the box today."

Regarding a result that makes it eight straight league wins, Ferguson added: "I am pleased with that. There is good consistency in terms of the defending, although today we did not have a lot to do in terms of defending. The other good thing is there is also a game less. There are only six left now, three at home and three away."

Scholes's decisive strike arrived on 68 minutes. A failure to control the ball by Taarabt allowed Rafael to feed the maestro and his 25-yard bullet beat Paddy Kenny to his right. As Ferguson mentioned, Carrick crashed a late effort off the post but the abiding memory will be of Young being booed by the visiting supporters every time he touched the ball.

While they had a case, it is now even more emphatically United's title to lose as they travel to Wigan Athletic on Wednesday.

Man of the match Paul Scholes (Manchester United)