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Four talking points: EPL: Manchester United vs Reading

by Yechh

READING, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 01: Robin van Persie of Manchester United celebrates scoring a goal with teammates Chris Smalling, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney during the Barclays Premier League match between Reading and Manchester United at Madejski Stadium on December 1, 2012 in Reading, England.

The scoreline would suggest that the game was a classic – one that was one by a last minute surge. The truth, really, is that it was a game of two halves – one in which there were 7 goals scored in the first half and none at all in the second. A crazy, chaotic and scrappy first half and a more civilized and almost boring second. The end result: a United win and three points clear atop the Premier League going into the derby at the Etihad. Some thoughts:

The number 1 jersey is Anders’ to lose. Or is it?

Prior to the game, Sir Alex said that he did not really favour rotation of the keepers. He seemed to suggest that David De Gea had had his turn and now it was Anders’. He said that he could not really drop Lindegaard for he had not really given him any reason to do so. He did let in three goals yesterday and yet, you could not really fault him for any of the three. At least two of the three were due to slack marking and the third took a wicked deflection. That said, he still did not really look all that comfortable against the high ball and once came charging out only to lose the ball. Thankfully for United, it did not result in a goal.  Will Sir Alex stick to him for the derby? A week from now, we will know.

READING, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 01: Chris Smalling of Manchester United sees his shot saved by Adam Federici of Reading during the Barclays Premier League match between Reading and Manchester United at Madejski Stadium on December 1, 2012 in Reading, England.

Defensive shambles

After a couple of iffy, yet surprisingly frugal defensive performances over the past few weeks, the United defence finally got what was, in many peoples’ eyes, long-coming. Rio and Evans could simply not organize the defence right and Reading scored from two corners in quick succession when the scorers were pretty much unmarked.

Rafael was tormented down the right by the Reading captain and was booked within the first 25 minutes, and taken off just half an hour into the game. The young Brazilian was, observably, not too pleased about this but then again, some lessons are to be learned the hard way. Sir Alex showed once again that past pedigree counted for nothing if you did not perform on the pitch and Rafael, target of much praise by Sir Alex this season, found this out for himself.

Smalling replaced Rafael and did, perhaps, marginally better. His delivery from the right wing was a let down but he did join up in the attacks quite well. Evra was industrious as ever and ably joined in the attacks. The defensive side of his game, however, is still in question but that has always been so nothing new to report on there.

Sir Alex has said that Vidic might be fit for mid-week but the important question is: Will Sir Alex be willing to risk him for the derby next week? Questions. Questions.

READING, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 01: Robin van Persie of Manchester United scores a goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Reading and Manchester United at Madejski Stadium on December 1, 2012 in Reading, England.

A confused midfield

United started with Fletcher, Carrick and Anderson in midfield behind Young, Rooney and van Persie. In theory, at least. What happened was that everyone was everywhere but more worryingly, everyone was at one place at one time. The centre of the pitch got a little too congested at many times and Carrick and Fletcher got in each others way on more than one occasion.

Anderson looked to be getting into his own but his participation was severely hampered by a back injury that saw him hobbling off in the first half itself. A big blow.His goal was quite simply brilliant and it is of concern that just when he seems to be blossoming, his path sees another roadblock

Fletcher still seems to be a shadow of his former self. While he has not lost any of his drive or willingness, he does seem out of breath from time to time. Clearly, his recovery has some way to go.

Phil Jones came on for Anderson and like Fletcher,  he shows signs of being on the comeback trail as well. Most unlike his generally buzzing self, he appeared labored and loitered around aimlessly many a time. He seemed to be struggling to shake off the lethargy and inertia. He seemed to lack that drive and gut-bursting energy that have come to characterize his game. He did make a couple of trademark powering runs but they were too few and too far in between. He admitted that he still has to work really hard to get back to full fitness and it is good that he realizes that, at least.

READING, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 01: Sir Alex Ferguson substitutes Robin van Persie for Danny Welbeck during the Barclays Premier League match between Reading and Manchester United at Madejski Stadium on December 1, 2012 in Reading, England.

The forward line(s)

Again, with the midfield being all over the place, it was left to Rooney to cover every blade of grass on the pitch and he did just that. Playing as center forward, winger, central midfielder and defender at various times, he also found time to score a couple of goals, thereby doubling his Premier League tally this season. Sir Alex did say that Rooney needs to get on the score sheet more often and it seems that Wayne has obliged. United fans will now be hoping for one of those scoring runs that he goes on from time to time.

Young, after a couple of extremely disappointing performances was excellent at the Madejski. He was a constant threat down the left and regularly got good crosses into the box. van Persie added another goal to his tally and should’ve really had two, with a goal disallowed (having been deemed as not crossing the line). Sir Alex said that his teammates are getting more used to him and the runs that he makes and this seems to be the case. He is linking up more and better with his teammates and this can only be a good sign.

Going forwards, United have not really had that much of a problem, this term. It is the defence that has plagued them. Sir Alex said after the game that if this is the way United will defend, then they will get battered and with all due respect to Reading, a better team like Man City will batter United. It is the defence that ought to be sorted out. Outscoring the opposition is quite alright but when faced with opposition as tough as the champions, outscoring is not all that easy, is it?

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