Boring United amble past Reading to go 15 points clear
The game was fantastically set up; Manchester City had lost to Everton earlier on on Saturday. The gap between United and City, as a result, remained 12 prior to kick off. When United took the field, it was a chance to go 15 clear and pretty much put the title in the bag; the record 20th Premier League title, that is.
One glance at the starting line-up and one knew that Sir Alex was not really going to sit back. De Gea started in goal and in front of him were Chris Smalling and Alex Buttner at right and left-back respectively and Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic at centre-back. For one of a very few times this season, the almost omnipresent Michael Carrick was not in the starting line-up. It was Anderson and Ryan Giggs in the middle with Ashley Young wide left and Danny Welbeck on the right. Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie started up top – no surprises there.
With this most attack minded line up, it was expected that United would steamroll a Reading side languishing near the bottom of the table; having recently sacked their manager. However, the game that eventually played out at Old Trafford can be best described in one word – boring.
Reading were quicker off the blocks and had much of the early possession. United gradually got into the game and, with time, began to string their passes together. With 20 minutes gone, Ferdinand picked the ball up in United’s half and strove purposefully forward into the Reading half. He skipped past a couple of challenges and fed the ball to Rooney, who took a touch to control it and then got a shot away. The shot took a wicked deflection off Alex Pearce and ended up in the back of the net. One-nil United. Things were going according to plan.
If that was to serve as a catalyst for further forays, that thought was to be extinguished. United decidedly looked labored and almost bored at times. There was hardly ever a tempo to their game, a sustained one, anyway. There were spurts where United clicked into gear and did play some clever stuff. On all these occasions, it was the movement that caused the problems to Reading. With Young and Welbeck starting on the wings, Rooney and van Persie went wide from time to time, allowing the wingers to tuck in and create chances.
However, these attacks were too few and far between to cause Reading too many sleepless nights. As it was, Reading were the ones who were playing the better football around the United penalty area but they, unfortunately, lacked that cutting edge. As a result, De Gea did see the action closer to his goal, his personal workload was next to minimal.
At the end of the day, the victory was routine, one could say. A below-par performance it was but then again, it was one that was more than enough. With City losing earlier on in the day, it was a chance for United to go 15 points clear with 9 games to play; and 15 clear they went.
However, the manner in which they went about it was not altogether convincing. United always looked stuck in second gear but then again, second gear was enough to overcome Reading.