Man Utd vs Reading Match Report (A Royal piece of luck sees Utd take three from Reading)By: Ian | March 17th, 2013
Let us begin with a toast to the weekend’s sporting action from a Red perspective. So it’s glasses up to Everton for showing the kind of performance we applaud here at this blog, as long as it isn’t against Utd (and even if it is – we’re not blind). As it happens, it was against City, so title hopes truly over for them now, I think. I will firstly admit to being preoccupied with the small matter of Wales vs England in the Six Nations down in Cardiff, which finished shortly after Utd had kicked off, hoping to compound on City’s misery. Compared with the fiery atmosphere of the Millenium, Utd’s encounter with relegation-battling Reading appeared somewhat tame. Don’t think anyone expected it to be anything other than that, but the game was largely a write-off. Not as in car crash write-off, but certainly in terms of quality entertainment. Nevertheless, let’s run through the action:
Utd fielded De Gea, Smalling, Ferdinand, Vidic, Buttner, Young, Anderson, Giggs, Welbeck, Rooney and Van Persie. This lineup seemed to be picked to address both the fatigue from last week and the upcoming international break. Giggs, Anderson, Vidic and Buttner aren’t involved for their respective countries so their selection made sense to give others a rest. Last thing you want is to send tired players off to international events. Hernandez, for example, is off for two games in the Americas, and while he is a goal machine for his country, it would have been unfair to play him prior to that trek. Ferdinand was present, however, with his recent international recall talk of the town. Mixed feelings about that here. On the one hand, nice to see players picked on form for once, though if that were completely true, Ricky Lamber, highest scoring Englishman this season, will also be called up. On the other, Ferdy apparently has a strict regime of medical care to keep him from succumbing to his plethora of age-related ailments and these extra games may meddle with that. This might have bothered Ferguson, but it certainly didn’t seem to bother the man of the moment, who was by far and away Utd’s best player in a mediocre game.
A highlight was the first real meaningful move on the quarter-hour as a glorious diagonal long pass was hit from the boot of Ferdinand in defence to seek out Young on the far wing. Rooney and Van Persie were available, but Young cut in himself, with the resulting shot going across goal and out. A chance. Another fell to Welbeck, who displayed his usual finishing skills (rumour has it Utd have a supply of ‘Good try’ stickers from a local school sports day saved up for just such occasions) to send the ball into the stands. Decent keeping then saw a Giggs’ through pass cut out before making danger. Reading were restricted to hopeful crosses with no specific target man in mind. Utd were the better side for this period and the breakthrough came after more magical work from Ferdinand. With his long-ranging stride he struck out from the back, dinked it over the first challenge, and under pressure clipped the ball into Rooney, marked by defender Alex Pearce. Rooney struck downwards, the ball looping up from Pearce’s attempted challenge. Keeper was helpless, and the ball sailed into the net. 1-0.
Here endeth most of the interesting stuff. It also seemed as though Utd were running the clock down or simply trying to get through the time whilst expending the bare minimum of energy. A big tick awarded for the latter. Reading battled, but weren’t really going anywhere special, their best effort falling to Robson-Kanu from distance. That curled away from De Gea, who may have been slightly frustrated at having to stand still for so long and at having forgotten to bring out his deckchair.
As is customary, play stopped at 45 minutes for everyone to grab a Lucozade (we’re not the BBC here – but other energising sports drinks are available from all ‘good’ retailers). The game restarted with Reading seeing more of the ball, but unfortunately for them not seeing the ball in the back of the Utd net. Their corners needed defending, however, and there were several early on in this period. None provided a critical test, but Utd ambled forward shortly after to restore the momentum balance. Again, little of meaning occured here, but Van Persie’s well-struck free kick from 30 yards or so proved the Dutchman still has an eye for goal, despite being in something of a drought at the moment.
Carrick was enjoying a feet-up day on the bench, but the one goal lead was slender so his substitution for Young made intentions fairly clear – just regain a little composure and see this out for the three points. A late chance, such as it was, fell to Sir Ryan (matter of time surely) as the Welshman poked goalwards from a tight angle. Not sure keeper Taylor knew too much about was happening, but he kept it at just the one conceded. Kagawa also replaced Anderson towards the end, Ando being someone I expected a bit more from given it wasn’t a particularly difficult afternoon in the centre.
Utd did at least finish strongly with Rooney whacking the ball just over in a move that could easily have made it two, and as the clock ticked over the ninety, RVP attempted gymnastics to get his first goal in a while. Didn’t happen for him yesterday, as it hasn’t for some time. But I shall not harp on about that for now, as it didn’t really happen for anyone on the field, Reading included. The game was a bit of a non-entity, perhaps surprising given the earlier City result. But I think that given Utd don’t return until 30th March against Sunderland now, the main thing was just to get three points. The more pedantic people around may say that’s all you need to do in any game, but I always remember something Matt Busby once said: “Those people (the fans) have worked hard all week and they’ve used that money to come see you – entertain them.” (Or words to that effect). That statement didn’t quite hold for Utd this week, but I think on balance, we had all the excitement we can handle last week.
I may bring a brief post on international affairs for Utd should anything interesting happen, but if not, please do join us again for the quickfire games against Sunderland and Chelsea in the cup. Comments below as usual, folks.