Manchester United came from behind once again this season to record a 4-3 victory over home side Reading at the Madejski Stadium with all 7 goals coming in the first half.
United lined up in a 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation with Lindegaard again preferred in goal (more on that continuing error later). A back four of Evra, Evans, Ferdinand and Rafael sat behind a midfield 3 of Anderson, Carrick and Fletcher. Rooney played wide right up front, with Young playing wide left and van Persie through the middle.
United were behing after 8 minutes when a dangerous cross from McAnuff was headed out by Jonny Evans only as far as Robson-Kanu who controlled the ball and hit a delightful half-volley past the on-rushing Evans and the hapless Lindegaard into the top left-hand corner of the net. While Evans’ clearing header was perhaps not as effective as it could have been, the fact remains that Robson-Kanu was Evra’s man, and Evra was, instead, double-marking Evans’ man. A defensive blunder that would set the tone for the first half.
United were level in the 13th minute as Carrick played the ball into Anderson, who used Young on the wing for an inch-perfect one-two which Anderson then smashed into the near side top-corner of the net beating Federici at his near-post for his first Premier League goal in over a year.
United took the lead just over 3 minutes later as a ludicrously poor attempt to barge through Jonny Evans to get to the ball from Jay Tabb gifted United a penalty which Rooney calmly dispatched to make it 2-1 after just 16 minutes.
Reading deserve great credit for seeming entirely unaffected by having thrown their early lead away, and began to surge forward down both wings, attacking Rafael and Evra in particular. Their persistence paid off as United conceded the equaliser and went behind to two headed goals from corners in the 19th and 23rd minutes.
The defending for both was somewhere between abysmal and negligent, Evans sloppy for both and Lindegaard failing to command his area in any way at all. Given one of the supposed knocks on De Gea is his inability to cope with big physical strikers muscling him from set plays (an opinion i do not agree with) with Lindegaard’s performance in this game i honestly cannot see ONE REDEEMING QUALITY that Lindegaard brings to the team. He’s the worst kicker of the ball i’ve ever seen on a professional football pitch, he constantly palms the ball back into the danger zone from shots and he’s baselessly arrogant in interviews. He’s fast approaching the title of my least favourite United keeper ever.
United levelled once again in the 30th minute as a driving run from Patrice Evra down the left allowed him to cross to an unmarked Rooney who’d pealed back to the penalty spot and side-footed into the net.
Perhaps fearing this back and forward scoring fest would continue, Sir Alex subbed Rafael off after only 30 mins. He was visibly annoyed at the decision, however he was already on a yellow and was replaced by Smalling, whose height was a welcome addition at set pieces.
United took the lead once again in the 34th minute as Rooney’s clever lay off put Robin van Persie through on goal with only Federici to beat. The dutchman stroked the ball past him into the net to record his 10th Premier League goal of the season.
United should have been 5-3 up a few minutes later as van Persie scored another goal that clearly went over the goal line but neither the ref nor the linesman gave it.
Just before halftime, United had to make another substitution as Phil Jones came on for Anderson who looked to have pulled his hamstring. A cruel blow for the player given he was rediscovering some form once again. It was hardly a surprise given his fitness history though, and ManUtd.com are now reporting he’ll be out “for a few weeks” (’till the end of the season then…)
Both teams clearly tried to tighten their belts at half-time resulting in a stale second half with only one real chance for United when van Persie stole the ball from Federici but could only skew his shot wide.
United will be happy with the victory given their rivals City and Chelsea (and to a lesser extent Arsenal) all dropped points, but the defensive performance was shambolic once again, and will be punished by the attacking talents of City next weekend if it continues.
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Reading 3-4 Manchester United highlights