MATCH REPORT: 2006/2007 Season

17 February 2007: FA CUP ROUND FIVE
Reading: Gunnarsson (67 mins).
Manchester Utd: Carrick (45 mins).
Half Time: 1-0
Attendance: 70,608

Pos Team P Pts GD
5 Bolton 26 44 +3
6 READING 27 43 +7
7 Portsmouth 27 41 +10
Reading: Federici, De la Cruz, Bikey, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Ki-Hyeon (Little 89), Oster (Sodje 86), Gunnarsson, Sidwell, Convey (Hunt 71), Kitson. Subs Not Used: Hahnemann, Lita.
Manchester Utd:: Kuszczak, Brown, Vidic, Silvestre, Heinze (Evra 73), Ronaldo, Fletcher, Carrick, Park (Scholes 73), Saha, Solskjaer (Larsson 73). Subs Not Used: Heaton, O'Shea.
Reading: Ki-Hyeon, Bikey.
Manchester Utd:: Vidic.
Ref: G Poll (Hertfordshire).
Reading will go into the draw for the sixth round of the FA Cup after a deserved draw at Old Trafford - despite resting several key members of the squad. As had been widely reported before the game, Steve Coppell stuck to his policy of fielding fringe players for cup fixtures despite the high quality of the opposition. However, in all honesty this remained a strong Reading side with players coming into the side who haven't been able to break back into the first team simply because of our excellent league form. Bringing Seol and Convey in on the wings hardly seemed like playing a reserve team and the inclusion of Gunnarsson would never be a cause for concern. De la Cruz and Bikey, who have both been at the top of their games joined Ingimarsson and Shorey in defence. Federici hasn't put a foot wrong in the Reading cup side and he was to have another excellent game in goal for Reading. All things considered this was a strong starting line-up for the Royals. Manchester United also chose to rest players but their line-up oozed quality in all areas. They started with Ronaldo, who played the full ninety minutes, and always looked a threat to Reading with his skills on the ball.

It was the home side that got off to the better start, settling quickly but without causing much danger. After about ten minutes Reading showed their capabilities as they had a solid spell of pressure. We won a couple of corners after pushing forward. Unfortunately we failed to produce anything from the corners in the same was we struggled to get in some decent crosses despite working into some good positions. Seol was particually active down the right wing as Reading fed the ball forward. These were promising signs for Reading. The Royals were doing an excellent job of closing the home side down and giving them very little space to play the ball around. United were struggling to create clear cut chances of their own - when they did break through De La Cruz was there twice with perfect tackles inside his own area to clear the danger.

The best chance of the first half so far came when the impressive De La Cruz got forward and played a nice return pass before hitting the ball the wrong side of the goalkeeper. His effort was just wide of the near post, when he probably should have put Reading ahead. Still, it was an excellent move as Reading showed they were more than capable. United had a couple of efforts shot wide of the target as Reading looked to be successfully containing them and taking the game into the break on level terms. However, with the last action of the first half Ronaldo, always a threat, broke through before passing to Carrick who hit it first time from a long way out. It was an powerful shot that flew into the bottom corner of the net giving Federici no time to get back and make the save despite his efforts.

It had been a case of "job done" for Reading until that strike in first half stoppage time, but the opening forty-five minutes had hardly been a classic with Reading doing a near perfect job of containing United. The second half was much more open as both sides played attacking football as the game developed into an end to end affair. United looked like they might increase their lead when Ronaldo found himself clear through with just Federici to beat. He attempted to sell Federici a dummy, but Federici stayed on his feet and Ronaldo ran out of space - eventually putting his shot wide of the far post as Federici blocked his options. Reading looked in trouble with United increasing the pressure, until we managed to break on 67 minutes to win our first corner of the second half. Oster played over an excellent corner that swung away from the defence to find Gunnarsson in the middle of the area. Gunnarsson capped a superb performance with a header that matched it as it looped over the crowd of players and the goalkeeper, dipping just under the crossbar to make it 1-1.

With the game at 1-1 and time running short the pace picked up again as both sides set about trying to win the game. Manchester United made a triple substitution as they tried to break Reading down. Again they created a couple of chances to score - and again Federici was up to the job to make a brilliant finger-tip save from a close range effort. Hunt came off the bench for Reading as the Royals pushed forward and nearly created a winner. Hunt's effort saw Seol nearly provide the perfect cross. Moments later Hunt went on a great run half the length of the pitch as Reading went on another counter-attack. For United, Saha broke free and had two players to cross to, which would surely have won the game, but he went for goal and put it wide of the target. And so the game ended 1-1 as Reading maintained their incredible unbeaten start to 2007.

When is this magic carpet going to land for us oh so happy Royals fans? It really is pinch yourself time as yet again Reading with a so called weakened side defied all the apparent experts and produced a gutsy outstanding display at Old Trafford. Yet again the fantastic following Reading supporters ensured Old Trafford had some sort of atmosphere and we totally out sung the prawn sandwich brigade. What a soulless place Old Trafford is, with five proper minutes to go with the game in the balance the place emptied! What a sad spoilt lot they are, but back to us, and didn't we do well. Federici had a blinder and must now be putting Hahnemann under big pressure and again Bikey had a top game the highlight being the crunching tackle against Nancy Ronaldo which you could feel up in the gods where we all were sat, brilliant, shame he'll miss the reply through suspension. Sidwell held the midfield together and the whole team worked hard with the exception of Seol who was a lazy sod and had a shocker and looking a shade of the player we saw at the start of the season. I'm not going to have the audacity to question Sir Steve's tactics or selections, but (there's always a but) how many of us were thinking if only Little and Lita had played, the form they are in at present who knows what would have happened. I honestly think Man Ure were there for the taking and with those two playing we'd have had a real chance. Into the quarter final draw we go and the replay promises to be a night to remember. Fergy put on a brave face after saying the reply was no problem, but he'll be looking forward to the game like a hole in the head, the Wembley Arch is twinkling on the horizon!
Nick Newbury

Seven years ago we held the mighty Scunthorpe United to a 2-2 draw in front of a whopping 4,000 crowd at Glandford Park, Humberside's very own "Theatre of Dreams". This weekend we were (relatively) unlucky not to nick something off Man U, at Old Trafford, in front of a paltry 70,000. Forget their one or two near misses and technical superiority, it's a results game and they didn't get one. Now we're disappointed that it's Boro away in the next round! Surely it doesn't get much better than this...
Kris, Muswell Hill

Having been starved of real success for so long, no other football fan can really understand what it is like to be a Reading fan right now. I never thought I would see us ever get into the old Division 1 or Premiership nor to Wembley for an FA Cup Final. Now I just don't know when this will end. Firstly we storm the Championship to finally reach the promised land after many thought we would flounder again around Christmas. Then we win a few games in the Premiership and people again said, it'll never last. We get to 40 points and people finally give us some respect. We now go and hold Man Utd at Old Trafford in the 5th Round of the Cup playing some gritty intelligent football and scoring with a fantastic old fashioned bullet header. Will we win the replay? Even with Rooney back fro Man Utd, why not? And if not, what next? Having become a Premiership team, I would love us to become an established Premiership team but who cares? We have a genius in Steve Coppell who has made virtually every player believe they are good enough to play at the highest level. Many fans I'm sure wondered if we had the quality to survive but never mind Sidwell or Doyle, it is the manager we need to hang on to. What a fantastic feeling, keep it going chaps!
Worzel, West Sussex Royal

From what I read in the paper today it could be Cardiff not Wembley twinkling if we can get by Utd, but this was another excellent performance against probably the top team in the country at then moment. Hopefully, we can afford to be a bit more attack minded in the replay. Man Utd certainly won't relish a second visit to Reading which is a real credit to the team's achievements this season. And even the BBC's 'expert pundits' didn't talk as much rubbish as usual on the TV about us. Wow. COME ON....
Gary Lineker's Fake Tan

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