Date:Tuesday February 27 2007
Uited are through to the last 8 of the FA Cup after a 3-2 victory at Reading. But this should not have been a real contest.
We were coasting after 6 minutes, with three goals scored in quick succession and Reading's dreams of a memorable cup upset seemed to evaporate. But we all know it's not United's style to do things the easy way.
Saha mised a sitter and then we let them back into the game as Kitson's header found the back of the net. Yet our counter-attacks were dangerous, Saha was impressive and it seemed we could not blow it away.
There were warning signs though. O'Shea started brilliantly but faded as the game went on. Fletcher was not a real defensive force tonight and Reading foudn the way past our midfield with an alarming ease.
The second half saw a determined United come out to the pitch and we controlled the game in the first 20 minutes and could have buried the hosts. The players seemed calm - too calm.
The Reds eased off again and Reading threw caution to the wind for the last period of the game. Fletcher and O'Shea were pushed back into defense too often as the Royals totally outplayed us in midfield and even Rooney's introduction did not bring back the team's composure.
We still could have scored goals but were always likely to concede and it duly happened when Lita found the net with a firm header from 12 yards out, following an impressive save by van der Sar.
The remaining minutes were unbeareable. Reading came forward and we could not cope with them. Our defenders looked powerless to stop their attackers, especially Glen Little and Leroy Lita who played magnificently after brought on by Coppell.
Gunnarson's shot saw my heart stop for a short while but we survived and held out for a win which was a bit tough on Reading. I don't even want to imagine how Federici must be feeling now as his errors denied Reading the chance to defeat us.
As for United, it was the second game in 4 days where the opponents made light work of getting through our midfield and that is worrying, especially in the light of the Liverpool clash looming. I believe these games once again showed the importance of Michael Carrick for our case.
The former Spurs midfielder played against Fulham but tiredness was all so evident at him and it was no surprise the Cottagers ran us ragged during the game. The same thing happened now when Carrick did not even make the bench: our midfielders were unable to stop the opponents' attacks. I hope we'll see a fit and fresh Carrick at the Anfield - we'll need him more than ever. Just remember his display against Chelsea.
There's one more thing I'd like to say about tonight's match: Reading have shown they are a fantastic side. their sixth place is entirely justified and I believe they'll be able to keep it if they carry on playing like they did tonight. We met them four times this season and though they could not win any of the games, they were impressive in all of these. I don't know if they follow Wigan's route and after a brilliant first season they would fade in the second but the material is to be successful in the long run. Steve Coppell is an especially talented manager, with exemplary manners, on the bench as well as in front of the media. He deserves all the praise and I would vote for him as Manager of the Year.
That's it for now. We'll play Boro in the quarter-finals, at the Riverside as Southgate's men defeated poor West Bromwich on penalties. I would have been happier to play West Brom, of course, but we should get through anyway.
Date:Tuesday February 27 2007
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