Sunday, February 18, 2007

FA Cup: Manchester United 1 - 1 Reading

Although United were basically fielding their reserve team (I counted at most four players who'd make the first-choice XI), even so, this was a disappointing result for the Red Devils. Reading may not exactly be Premiership guppies anymore, considering that they're currently sitting sixth in the table, but they rested a lot of their key players as well -- which should have meant an easier game for United. It didn't.

I've commented before that the teams who do best against Man United are the ones that come out strongly and attack, rather than just sitting back with ten men behind the ball, and that's exactly what Reading did here. And United were their own worst enemy: they managed to pass the ball around well enough, but they squandered far too many chances at goal.

Cristiano Ronaldo in particular had all his tricks on display, but apparently forgot his shooting boots, and Louis Saha's finishing wasn't sharp enough either. I think the changes to the lineup also hampered them because, with Ronaldo and Park Ji-Sung cutting inside a lot, Wes Brown and Gabriel Heinze didn't get forward to support them on the wings as much as Gary Neville and Patrice Evra usually do.

United went in 1-0 up at the break, thanks to a low drive from Michael Carrick that crept in at the far post (if that goalpost had been a foot or two farther over, the final score could've been 3- or 4-1). But they were left to pay for their wastefulness in the second half when Brynjar Gunnarsson scored with an unmarked header from a corner to even things up.

After that United tried to press for the winning goal -- with Sir Alex even making a triple substitution -- but it was too little, too late. So now they've got to face a replay at the Madejski in a couple of weeks, which is the last thing they need with the Champions League starting up again.

Other results
Fulham 0 - 4 Tottenham
Preston North End 1 - 3 Manchester City
Chelsea 4 - 0 Norwich
Watford 1 - 0 Ipswich
Plymouth Argyle 2 - 0 Derby
Middlesbrough 2 - 2 West Brom
Arsenal 0 - 0 Blackburn

Sixth round draw takes place on Monday

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