READING 3, MAN UNITED 4.
Sir Alex Ferguson launched a withering attack on Manchester United’s defensive play implying the 70-year-old could do better on the day they moved three points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League.
The Reds’ manager was unhappy with the goals conceded in a remarkable match at second-bottom Reading where all seven goals came in an amazing opening 34 minutes.
Ferguson, whose side had already conceded 21 goals in 15 Premier League matches, admitted: “It was agony and our worst defensive display of the season.
“We have to do something about losing three goals in the manner we did. It isn’t good enough and if we play like that against City (in Sunday’s derby) we will have no chance.
“If we defend like that, I will have to play!”
It was so bad Ferguson brought off Rafael da Silva, who had been booked, after half an hour and replaced the right back with Chris Smalling to steady the ship which was listing badly.
For a remarkable 10th time, United had to come from behind to win and the season has yet to reach its mid-way stage. Incredibly 21 of their 36 league points have been amassed from losing positions.
Rio Ferdinand, Darren Fletcher and Ashley Young won recalls as Reading snatched an eighth-minute lead when United failed to clear a routine cross and Hal Robson-Kanu fired high into the roof of the net.
United were 2-1 ahead in the 16th minute following a blistering near-post shot from Anderson and a Wayne Rooney penalty which was awarded after Jay Tabb shoved Jonny Evans in the back.
Adam Le Fondre, the smallest player on the pitch, headed Reading back on level terms with 20 minutes not completed. It was special for striker from Stockport who is a lifelong United fan.
United’s vulnerability at corners was exploited again as Steve Morrison headed the Royals back ahead midway through the half from inside the six-yard box.
Rooney made it 3-3 after half an hour slotting home a low cross from Patrice Evra and, barely had everybody regained their breath that United were ahead when Rooney set up Robin van Persie to slot home their fourth.
United ought to have had a fifth first-half goal when van Persie’s shot was clearly over the line before Adrian Mariappa cleared the ball.
The second half was an anti-climax, though United could have extended their lead and Reading may have drawn level.
Dutchman van Persie dispossessed Adam Federici but after rounding the keeper fired wide. It was a glaring miss for United’s 13-goal top scorer.
Reading had their own penalty appeal when Mariappa claimed he was fouled by Evra and then in stoppage time United keeper Anders Lindegaard was forced to tip over Morrison’s downward header which would have looped in.