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Reading 0 United 2

Reading are somewhat of a bogey team for United, compared to most teams that is. Two draws last season- away in the league and at home in the cup- as well as the disappointing result on the first day of this season at home too does not make for an impressive record. But there was also a feeling before this game that United would be flying after the 6-0 thrashing of Newcastle (which I missed due to a poorly scheduled wedding) and also as Reading had so many players away for the African Nations.

It is not often that the United line up is announced, includes the likes of Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez, but still has Reds slightly concerned. And that is just how important Anderson has become. It did not matter who else was available in his place- Reds wanted him on the team-sheet straight away, and his absence would indeed be notable. Carrick certainly did not do enough to show why he should be selected in coming matches, and nor did Park look sharp on his return from long term injury. However, United’s poor first half performance did not stop them creating chances, the best of which was a wonderful free kick from Hargreaves which would have hit the top corner if not for a very good save. Tevez, Rooney and Ronaldo all looked lively but Reading were also dangerous and could have scored themselves in the first 45 minutes.

United came out in the second half with Giggs in for Park and it was not long before Carrick made way for Nani. United started to exert pressure and take control of the game. The standard of play was not consistent but at times was breathtaking. A goal was getting closer but somehow chances were being missed and doubt started to creep in amongst the away support. Ronaldo hit one over from 8 yards after a great run by Ferdinand and Rooney had a couple of efforts on goal too. But at the other end the home support arose from their silence when Kitson was clean through, onlu for VDS to save.

The home support were small time and petty throughout. The usual ‘live round the corner’ songs came out at times, but they had no answer to ‘where were you on Tuesday night’ in reference to a half empty stadium in their cup replay days before. ‘Come to see United, you’ve only come to see United’ followed, just as a lovely ball from Tevez found Rooney who flicked it in to the corner of the net. The away roar went up, relief all around, and the home fans sat down again.

The game seemed to turn into a practice match after the opening goal. Reading, to their credit, pushed so far forward that United could counter with ease. Carrick missed a sitter, as did Ronaldo minutes later, but Reading also had a very good chance to equalise and United were fortunate that James Harper smashed wide. But United also looked more likely to get the next goal and when Ronaldo picked the ball up the edge of his area and ran the length of the pitch there was only ever going to be one outcome. 2-0 and all over.

This was a really entertaining game and credit has to go to Steve Coppell and his team for not being afraid to come out against United and have a go. At times it could have gone either way but United were the better team and did create a lot of chances over 90 minutes. Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez all played their part as always in this game and United remain top for at least another 10 days. “United, United top of the league” echoed out as we left, but not many of those at the Majdeski stadium were on their way to Riyadh.

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