United Surrender Lead Again
Reading earned a replay in the FA Cup 5th round against United. The Royals will now fancy their chances of knocking the Reds out at Madejski where the two sides played a 1-1 draw back in September.
Of course this game was in our hands. Reading started lively, applying some early pressure but United soon took control and in the later stages of the second half the Reds created a host of opportunities but missed them all due to the unconvincing display from Park, Saha (his overall performance was good but failed to deliver in front of the goal) and Solskjaer.
Of course, the Norwegian scored a prefectly good goal that was disallowed for offside but that's something we're starting to get used to, having had two goals ruled out for unknown reasons against Portsmouth. At the end of the first half Ronaldo laid back the ball to Carrick who fired home from 25 yards.
It was the best possible moment to score a goal and take the lead but United did not make the most of it. Ronaldo missed two good chances and bad final passes and slow thinking cost us more opportunities but it appeared we would win the game as Reading failed to threaten United. Set-pieces are dangerous, however, and from a corner the unmarked Gunnarsson headed into the top corner.
I applauded Sir Alex's instant reactions as the boss brought on Evra, Scholes and Larsson but it did not make an instant difference. Scholes' performance was absolutely disappointing whilst Evra just could not pick up the tempo quickly enough. Larsson's shrewd runs gave us a bit of edge in attack and he missed a great chance to put us back in front but otherwise United seemed to lack imagination. Still, we should have won this: Saha was clean through in the very last minute but fired his shot pathetically wide.
All in all, Reading deserved a replay for a battling performance but we should have killed the game off but instead let them back into it as we had done against Aston Villa and Arsenal. I would say it's worrying but I try to be an optimist: it's better to be stumbling in the Cup as we can do it in the replay. In the league, a home draw would be nothing less than a disaster. I'm not sure we can beat Reading; in fact, I believe it will another frustrating 1-1 draw, with an exit in a penalty shootout. Hopefully I'll be mistaken. But at least Scholes, Giggs, Rooney, Ferdinand and Evra had some rest before the Lille game even though Evra and Scholes played 15 minutes.