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Manchester United 2-1 Reading: Five things we learned

by Sam Peoples

Does the team enjoy self-induced squeaky bum time? It has become a regular occurrence this season to see Manchester United turn a seemingly comfortable position into a 15 minute nerve-jangling end to the game.

Once again, we sat on the back foot and defended from deep to invite Reading upon us and they duly obliged by getting a goal back. We hung on for the victory, much to all our relief, but it seems silly to play into the heads of our opposition.

This season, attack has most certainly been our best form of defence so we should always be looking to score, especially when the game sits on an uncomfortable 2-0 lead. Ferguson was right in his post-match analysis that we should have punished Reading with our chances and up against stronger opposition, a replay may well have been forced.

Sell Nani? No thank you. United were really struggling to create anything going forward against Reading tonight. Off goes Jones with an injury for Nani and it all changes. Nani might struggle to find consistency but in terms of world class ability, a natural talent to be able to create something out of nothing, there isn’t a better winger in our squad and we simply cannot afford to sell him.

He hit the post with a scorching volley and had three shots fizz wide before scoring a great goal and crossing with pin-point accuracy for Hernandez to finish. That’s five or six chances created by Nani within the space of 35 minutes.

In a season where we have had almost nothing from our wingers, having Nani come back into the squad and play like he did tonight is such a boost. When you need a chance, Nani will likely make something for you. The frustration is that more often than not it doesn’t lead to anything but we cannot afford to not have him in the squad. Simple.

Anderson wasn’t interested. In the first game after quotes appeared from Anderson in Brazil stating he had tried to leave United “many times” in the past, he didn’t seem to want the ball.

In previous appearances this season, Anderson has always wanted the ball and actively seeked possession. In the first 45 minutes, all he seemed to want to do was force the ball elsewhere and didn’t take it upon himself to bring the ball forward. He didn’t have many, if any, surging runs forward to the edge of the box and looked lackadaisical.

To be fair to Anderson, he had an improved second half. He chased the ball forward more and showed more of his typically energetic self – pumping up the Stretford End after a chance he crafted himself synonymous of that. However, it is obvious that his match fitness has gone back down the pan again after such little game time. He’ll need a lot of minutes if he is to show the sort of performances that he did earlier in the season.

Captain Nemanja. We’re really starting to see the Nemanja of old now. It has been over two months since he returned from injury against Swansea and with every game he gets through without injury, he is getting back to his commanding self.

Assured in the air, calm in possession and fierce in the tackle or block, Vidic really is the supreme defender on his day. He seems to have got over the terrible injury problems, touch wood, that have thwarted his career over the past 16 months and looks ready to re-ignite it.

United haven’t rushed Vidic back into the team at all on his second return from injury and it has paid dividends. Playing him in the right games, rather than all the games, has paid dividends. It is a cliche but having Vidic back to his glorious best is like having a new signing given our defensive woes in his absence.

He is probably still wiping pieces of Noel Hunt off his steel forehead as we speak…

Is there a better squad in the world than United’s? Considering we made eight changes from the team that should of won at Real Madrid last week, the starting XI was incredibly strong. I don’t think any other team in the world has the quality in depth that United has and it really is our greatest asset.

The run-in will always have tough games one after the other at the business end of the season but it isn’t something that will phase this squad. There is fantastic cover for all positions bar central midfield (that’s another discussion) and Ferguson knows he can rely on everyone to give their all whenever they get the opportunity.

Treble talk might be early in February but the foundations have certainly been laid so far this season.

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