Reading FC Match Report: 2012/2013 Season - FA Cup


Reading: J McAnuff (81 mins).
Man Utd: L Nani (69 mins), J Hernandez (72 mins).

It is doubtless a sign of our progress that an FA Cup fixture with Manchester United represents a chance for the fringe players to step up. League games at home over the next couple of months represent our best opportunity to get out of a sticky situation which our poor form before Christmas got us into. Away games coming up at Everton and Arsenal sandwiching a return visit to Old Trafford look less appealing. It is probably a sign of the diminishing value of the Cup that a club like Reading would treat this grand old competition with such cavalier indifference, for that you may wish to blame the obscene value of the next Premier League television deal and the disgraceful failure of the authorities to distribute funds amongst the footballing pyramid rather than Reading Football Club per se.

Brian made 6 changes to the side which went down at Stoke. With mixed success, it must be said. Morrison and Shorey filled in competently enough in the back four, but the switch to four across the middle was far from an absolute triumph; that is at least after the excellent Leigertwood was swapped – presumably with the critical Wigan fixture in mind – for the ineffectual Guthrie. The change came around the same time that United introduced £20 million pounds worth of Robin Van Persie as the expectant home crowd began to grumble at their side’s failure to break down our modest line-up and particularly when compared to our own bargain basement front two of ALF and the ever-honest Hunt, this always looked like the game-breaking alteration. And so it proved as within 5 minute’s of RVP’s arrival United held a 2 goal lead. Sure, the Dutchman wasn’t directly responsible for the goals but the timing of the game decisively changing cannot be mere coincidence. United bring on RVP, we introduce HRK – therein lies the difference.

That United had to wait so long for the breakthrough owes much to heroic early defensive blocks as the home side chased the treble like a train at the outset. The excellent Federici – thoroughly justifying his injury-enforced reintroduction in recent months – somehow sprang an extra arm to deny Young at the second attempt following Cleverley's initial effort whilst at the other end Reading barely warmed De Gea’s palms although gradually we grew in terms of possession with Leigertwood at the hub of periods of comfortable ball retention against a growingly frustrated champions-elect. Nani struck a post with a firm drive from outside the area as half time approached at a good time for us with the tempo again raised after we had seemingly taken the sting out of their intent.

The introduction of Van Persie brought probably the biggest cheer of the evening from the home support and within minutes the game was won. With barely twenty to play, Valencia wriggled past Shorey and Nani drove the cut-back home under Federici. Our first shot on target came in anger in response as ALF half-volleyed at De Gea as a result of a knock-down from the otherwise ineffectual Hunt, who to be fair was dazed and in a state of repair following a bloody coming together with Vidic. United’s own super sub Hernandez then immediately showed us how top players punish mere mortals, with a glancing near post header which Reading defended fragilely. Against any other side this would be game over – indeed, against Reading six weeks ago this would have been game over – but we rallied as standard and the lively McAnuff put us back in the picture with a slotted finish following a hash of a clearance from Chris Smalling.

Reading gave the home side plenty to think about in the those final ten minutes with a whipping Shorey freekick delivery being glanced behind by a United head when it could so easily have nestled past De Gea had a Reading man got even the merest contact first. In truth though, United were just as likely on the counter attack and Welbeck inexplicably mis-controlled when a 3-on-2 presented itself as we poured forward. In the end United held out and a 2-1 home win seemed fair, but whilst honour in defeat becomes almost tiresomely self-righteous when repeated time and time again on our travels as we have become accustomed to, the facts are that our much changed side remained in the game until the final stages. In truth, for that you can thank Federici and perhaps without a midfield 4 comprising Guthrie and Karacan in the latter stages we might have taken advantage of United’s generally tepid showing on the night.
Neil Maskell

This FA Cup game took place 3642 days ago in the 2012/2013 season.