United win Royals Appointment but the game was mental, plain and simple.
FOR Manchester United the aim was simple. Win against Reading and be three points clear of that lot across the city. The late kick off meant we had the extra giggle of Chelsea losing at Upton Park and Arsenal being spanked in the last few minutes at home to Swansea. Manchester United had Lindegaard in goal, David nursed a wisdom tooth, Anderson continued to ‘pick himself’ in the centre, Ashley Young started on the left, Wayne Rooney on the right in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Robin Van Persie up front. It was Wayne Rooney who made all the headlines in the build up, with the manager stating that he needed his striker to up his influence in terms of goals but by the end of the match he’d have played almost everywhere on the pitch and those watching the game would be stunned into silence by the action.
Once again though it was the opposition taking the lead as Jobi McAnuff crossed from the left and Johnny Evans could only head the ball in the direction of Hal Robson-Kanu who sent a classy shot into the net after eight minutes. It was a good start for the home team but United were level five minutes later. Robson-Kanu’s attacking cross was cut out by Rio Ferdinand and after some nice keep ball across the pitch involving Evra, Carrick, Fletcher and Rooney, Anderson found Ashley Young on the left and ran into space to receive the ball back for a shot too quick for Adam Federici in the Reading goal.
Two minutes later United had the lead when, following a Wayne Rooney corner, Jonny Evans’ Cantona like ball control in the area was rewarded by a clattering Jay Tabb challenge. The number ten stepped up and with his right foot sent it to Federici’s left, United were a goal up but the drama showed no signs of ending, for we are Manchester United and it’s our nature to make it hard for ourselves before we make it easy. Just before the twenty minute mark the Royals were not reading the script (see what I did there?); it would also appear the back four and ‘keeper forgot how to defend set pieces. Jonny Evans had to clear the ball for a corner when Anders Lindegaard was somewhat unsure what to do and from the following corner Nicky Shorey’s delivery was better than Domino’s and Adam Le Fondre stuck his head where it mattered to level the score. Those thinking United’s back line would learn from that game of defensive statues were very very wrong and by the twenty-third minute Sean Morrison was sending the home side into a 3-2 lead in almost identical circumstances, another Nicky Shorey delivery, Morrison charged in, leapt like a salmon, waved at Evans below him and headed the ball into the back of Lindegaard’s net.
On the half hour Manchester United were level after good work from Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney benefitting and this fascinating match took another twist. It’s fair to say that today, United’s left side was a source of all things good, Reading had no answer for much of what was created there, Ashley Young had a good game and Evra found time in his incredibly busy defensive schedule, to make the odd dangerous run forward, This source of creation did not exist for the other flank, Rafael had a forgetful day and was replaced by Chris Smalling. Sir Alex was not unduly concerned by the Brazilian’s somewhat stroppy reaction to being removed and the lad has done enough good things this season to be allowed an off day, Reading had him on toast but he’ll be back, Lindegaard on the other hand can surely expect to be counting bench splinters in his arse after his performance today. He looked uncertain for the Reading goals on a day when most of the back four ahead of him had their fair share of blame. Anders was on hand to tip the ball over the crossbar when Sean Morrison headed goalwards from a corner in the last few minutes but David’s time may have come with Europe beckoning.
The winning goal came on the thirty-fourth minute and completed a downright bonkers first half, and as it turned out, the scoring also. Ashley Young made himself available for Evans’ pass, a quick footed jig and he finds Patrice Evra, Evra finds Michael Carrick and Ashley Young sets off on a run to be found Van Persie. Michael Carrick finds Wayne Rooney who then flicks it into Van Persie’s path and there’s only going to be one winner when he’s one on one with the ‘keeper. 4-3, an incredible first half that was as absurd as it was gripping; Sir Alex Ferguson would go on to say the game was ‘agony’ and Wayne Rooney would echo the sentiments of many a United fan after the match, lessons need to be learned and so far they simply are not.
Most of that team can play in the week and I wouldn’t complain, Anderson is unfortunate to now face some time out of the side but for a lad apparently playing for his future at the club he can be happy with the points he has made to the manager when questions have been asked of him. Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher did well, Wayne Rooney was all over the place in terms of running and position, Lindegaard and Rafael will have better days at the office.
The disallowed goal was perfectly legit (it came from more good work from Ashley Young, just saying) but there was more than enough action in this one to make that Van Persie effort a foot note.
In a bit. GTS