In what has become a common theme for Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United squad this season, an early goal was conceded and the need to come from behind against an inferior opponent was necessary. Nothing Reading did came as a surprise to the Red Devils but they were still ruthlessly exposed in wide areas of the pitch and on corners. Jonny Evans of season's past decided to make the trip south to Reading and decide that defending was optional.
The game hadn't even settled when Reading were on the board in the 8th minute when Jobi McAnuff was able to cut inside of Rafael on the right and deliver a cross into a dangerous area. Patrice Evra was tucked inside marking the runner at the far post, thus allowing Jonny Evans' weak clearing header to fall to Hal Robson-Kanu. He still had a lot to do with a sideways half valley into the top corner that left goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard helpless.
United responded almost immediately with a beautiful piece of football combined with some absolutely shoddy defending by the Royals. Anderson used a brilliant touch to play the ball through to Ashley Young on the left about halfway into the Reading half and then continued his run into the box. Ashley Young intelligently waited for Anderson before playing in a perfectly weighted ball that the completely unmarked Anderson was able to fire first time past the keeper just inside the near post.
The Red Devils remained on the front foot and continued to push Reading back. Just as most viewers realized a second was destined to come, United were gifted a penalty by Jay Tabb with some absolutely awful defending. Jonney Evans did well to control following a corner and while posing no threat to goal and even facing the wrong direction, was bundled over by Tabb. It was a clear penalty and Mark Hawsley made the correct call immediately. Wayne Rooney stepped up and delivered from twelve yards by sending the keeper the wrong way.
At this point it was 2-1 and the route had just begun, or so one thought. Four minutes later Robson-Kanu did well to earn a corner and Adam Le Fondre was left completely unmarked on his run to the near post by Jonny Evans. Le Fondre left no doubt with his free header at the edge of the six yard box and back on level terms were the Red Devils.
The Royals weren't done with their dominance on corners yet, however. Just four minutes from the last goal, Reading took the lead on another corner with more horrible marking by this Manchester United squad. Sean Morrison was allowed to get a free run through the 18 yard box and head home emphatically just in front of Anders Lindegaard. Again the Dane was left with nothing to do but pick the ball out of the back of the net while Jonny Evans was left to contemplate how, yet again, the man he was responsible for on a corner was able to get away and score.
On the half hour the game was again level as Wayne Rooney was able to find the goal for the second time this Premier League term from 8 yards out. The goal came as a result of some brilliant play down the left by Ashley Young and Patrice Evra. Evra found Young near the touchline and continued his run through the center. Young then hit Evra perfectly in stride with a beautiful backheel that released the leftback to put in a cross for the unmarked Rooney.
Another piece of brilliance resulted in the goal that eventually won the game for Sir Alex and the rest of the squad. As United looked for an opening on the right, Wayne Rooney was able to get himself some space in the hole between the Reading defenders and midfielders. Michael Carrick's ball into Rooney was brilliantly flicked onto Robin van Persie two yards behind both centerbacks. The Dutchman made no mistake about the goal by coolly putting his right-footed finish into the bottom corner. RvP was just onside due to the positioning of Chris Smalling high up the pitch forcing Nicky Shorrey back just enough to play the Red Devil's number nine onside.
From here on out the game slowed and the second half was a much more typical United display as they continued to dominate possession. Reading never really mustered another good chance through the final 55 minutes.
There are some significant talking points following this game, however. What does the substitution of Rafael in the 31st minute and petulant reaction mean moving forward? How does Sir Alex Ferguson respond to the loss of Anderson, who has arguably been his best central midfielder over the past couple weeks? What needs to be done about the back four, and possibly holding midfielder role, before the derby next week?
Feel free to discuss all of these and anything else in the comments.