Manchester United vs. Reading: Final score 1-0, Red Devils poor but get the victory

Michael Regan

Manchester United took another big step towards the Premier League title by squeezing past reading in a rather dull encounter at Old Trafford.

United started by immediately pinning Reading back inside their own half, with the Royals reluctant to press and instead looking to defend deep. It was a tactic that seemed to work initially, with United enjoying plenty of possession but not creating any clear chances.

Rio Ferdinand gave a glimpse of what was to come after he showed some fine ability on the ball, strolling out of defence and playing a long cross-field pass straight to the feet of Ashley Young, although the winger went for goal from a tight angle and blazed wide with Robin van Persie unmarked in the centre.

Ferdinand was also the creator for United's breakthrough goal, which came shortly afterwards. After stepping out of defence to sweep up a loose ball, the centre-back carried on through the middle of the pitch, skipping over one challenge before finding Rooney outside the area, whose shot took a huge deflection off Alex Pearce to loop over Stuart Taylor and into the net.

Reading were struggling to get into the game at all with Noel Hunt an isolated figure up front, but on one of the few occasions the Irishman did manage to hold the ball up, it led to Reading going close as they put together a passing move which ended with Hal Robson-Kanu receiving the ball on the edge of the area and letting fly with a curling shot which appeared to have David de Gea beaten, although flew inches wide of the far post.

United have often been lax after taking the lead in games this season, and that habit continued as they allowed Reading to mount pressure on them after the break. Nonetheless, without creating anything clear, United did get one chance which was a far better one than their opponents had created so far. Robin van Persie got down the right channel and was through on goal, albeit from a narrow angle, but in trying to shift the ball onto his left foot, he allowed Alex Pearce to get back and deny him the shot.

It was a hugely unconvincing performance from Manchester United, who completely took their foot off the gas after going 1-0 up and looked disjointed and stuttering throughout. Part of that will have been the players rested - the driving runs of Rafael and Patrice Evra were sorely missed, along with Michael Carrick's composure on the ball, although given the players they did have on the pitch it was still an unforgiveable display. Yet, as sums up their season, it was still a victory in the end - combined with Manchester City's earlier defeat, one which leaves them all but certain to be crowned champions.

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