MATCH REPORT: 2007/2008 Season

12 August 2007: FA PREMIER LEAGUE
Reading: -
Man Utd: -
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 75,655

Pos Team P Pts GD
11 Man Utd 1 1 0
12 READING 1 1 0
13 Birmingham 1 0 -1
Reading: Hahnemann, De la Cruz, Ingimarsson, Duberry, Shorey, Murty, Ki-Hyeon (Oster 57), Harper, Gunnarsson, Hunt (Bikey 87), Doyle (Kitson 72). Subs Not Used: Federici, Cisse.
Man Utd: Van der Sar, Brown (Fletcher 77), Ferdinand, Vidic, Silvestre (O'Shea 57), Ronaldo, Scholes, Carrick, Evra, Giggs, Rooney (Nani 46). Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Pique.
Reading: Seol, Oster. Sent Off: Kitson (73 mins)
Man Utd: -
Ref: Robert Styles (Hampshire).
Its hard to understand why all the so called experts have written Reading off again this season before a ball was even kicked. The squad that worked so many wonders last season is almost entirely intact, and the line-up at Manchester United was essentially unchanged, with the exclusion of Steve Sidwell who made his way to Chelsea in the summer. Steve Coppell has already identified himself as probably the best tactical manager in the Premier League, and this outing was another excellent example. Coppell opted to pack the midfield and defence and to stop Manchester United playing with tight marking. It worked. Up front Kevin Doyle was the sole striker and was to have a very quiet afternoon as Reading went about the job of shutting United out. Reading's acheivement in getting a draw was made even more impressive after playing the last seventeen minutes with ten men when Kitson was sent off before touching the ball.

Right from the off it was Manchester United enjoying the possession and calmly stroking the ball around, and the pattern of the game hardly changed throughout. Reading were content to let them play, but every attempt of United's to break into the final third of the pitch found stiff resistance from Reading. Players were closed down instantly and there was never anywhere to run. Every slight movement of a United player found instant pressure from a designated marker. The defensive pressure successfully broke down nearly every attack all afternoon long. There were excellent defensive performances from the entire Reading team as United simply couldn't find any room to play and any sniff of a breakthrough was met by a quick tackle or a complete lack of options. This must have been a very frustrating afternoon for Manchester United.

It was no suprise that the home side had the massive majority of shots. However, the statistics conceal that most of these were from outside the Reading area or a tight angle. Marcus Hahnemann pulled off a string of excellent saves but then the Reading defence made sure most of the attempts on target were quick efforts from distance under pressure. Giggs might have put Reading ahead with a volley from the left after a rare breakthrough - but he found the outside of the post. It would have made no difference with Hahnemann covering the shot anyway. Rooney looked lively up front but was constantly covered by Duberry in the centre of defence. He did break through early on but Hahnemann was quick off his line to make the save. It wasn't entirely one way traffic as Reading enjoyed a couple of minutes of pressure on the United goal midway through the first half. We won two corners in the space of a minute but failed to test the goalkeeper. Reading shots were very few and far between - perhaps one in each half as we concentrated on shutting United out.

Rooney was to grab the headlines again - but for the wrong reasons after being replaced at half time with a suspected foot injury, picked up as he charged through on goal and was covered by Duberry. The other incident of note was Dave Kitson picking up a red card after about thirty seconds of replacing Kevin Doyle. Kitson's season was destroyed on the opening day of last season by a horrendous tackle. This wasn't in the same league as that as Kitson went flying in to block the United full back clearing the ball. It was a bad challenge worthy of a booking, but there's no doubt that the red card was harsh. It made Reading's job even tougher and appeared to end any vague hope of a break away goal to take the win.

United wasted chances with time running out - blasting over the bar a few times and then somehow hitting a shot closer to the corner flag from around the penalty spot. Desperation was sinking in. Reading had a rare moment in the United half with a break that saw a two-on-two situation that ended with a Hunt shot from long range. We managed to win another corner in the dying moments to use up more valuable time. It was still a nervous finish for Reading as the referee was keen to give United as many dubious free-kicks as possible just outside the area. Thankfully the home side were to waste those, with Ronaldo blasting his last ditch effort way over the bar.

If someone had told me 2 or 3 years ago that Reading would draw against the Champions at Old Trafford whilst playing the last 20 minutes with 10 men, then I would have laughed in their face. But weíve done it and credit must go to Steve Coppell and all the coaching staff, especially Wally Downes for what he did with the defence. Iíve not seen many teams play like what we did before and it was a risky tactic because if one person loses their man, then the whole thing falls apart. It only happened a couple of times but when it did, Hahnemann was there to stop anything and credit must go to him as it was only a few weeks ago since he had plates and screws put in his hand. Everyone was fantastic, Doobs was awesome as was Ivar, De La Cruz and Harper who didnít let Scholes do anything. Murty must also take the plaudits because his man was Giggs and I donít think Iíve ever seen Giggs have such a poor game and that was down to Murty not letting him do anything. I think the red card was a bit harsh, I think Rob Styles should have used a bit of common sense. Yes, it was a poor tackle but he had only just come on and he was eager to show what he could do and he was genuinely going for the ball. I thought that it was all going to fall apart after that but we dug deep, never gave up and Oster may have nicked a winner in the end but perhaps that was too much to ask. A courageous performance and everyone that played was a hero.

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