United edge seven-goal first-half thriller but leaky defence a worry
Reading 3 Manchester Utd 4:After emerging on the right side of this seven-goal gala, Sir Alex Ferguson turned the screw on Roberto Mancini, claiming Manchester City have to qualify for the Europa League to keep his players happy and for the Italian’s own professional pride.
United travel to City for Sunday’s derby with a three-point lead. Before then Mancini’s team are at Borussia Dortmund tomorrow for the final Champions League group game knowing victory offers the best chance of securing third place and qualification for the second-tier European competition.
Ferguson, is aware that if City are not in the Europa League their focus can be solely centred on retaining their title.
“I don’t know if City would have an advantage,” he said.
“I’m not sure it would suit them. You can spend more time on the training ground, no question, but then you have to deal with the fact you’re not in European football and every manager wants to do well in Europe. I do, anyway. City need to beat Borussia Dortmund. I don’t think losing for a big club is very healthy. On one hand you can be fresh for the second half of the season and play a fresh team every week but how do you keep them all happy if they’re out of the League Cup and they go out of the European Cup?
“I don’t know enough about the City players . . . apart from Carlos Tevez. Sometimes players want to play every week.”
United’s own holy grail is to grind out a few of the 1-0 victories that mark the road to the title, the Scot said recently.
Edging a seven-goal thriller over Reading accentuates evidence building all season that his side are still not paying heed as the crucial derby beckons.
Against City United may be boosted by the return of Nemanja Vidic. “I’m hopeful maybe Vidic will play,” said Ferguson.
All seven goals at the Madejski were scored in a frantic 26 minutes. Hal Robson-Kanu’s volley gave Reading the lead, Wayne Rooney’s penalty and Anderson’s left-foot rocket made it 2-1 to United. Adam Le Fondre and Sean Morrison restored the Royals’ advantage and Rooney’s second equalised again before Robin van Persie’s 34th-minute winner.
While the Dutchman also had a legitimate goal chalked off when Adrian Mariappa’s clearance was wrongly judged to have been on the line, Fletcher picked up Ferguson’s disquiet that for a 14th time this season United had conceded first.
“Yes, it’s becoming a concern. But, particularly at set pieces, it’s individual mistakes, which we can try and sort out,” said Fletcher. Anderson pulled a hamstring which may rule him out for a “few weeks”, said Ferguson.
Reading manager Brian McDermott’s side remain second-bottom. “I have got the Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama at home, I will probably read that,” he said. In a long season, he may need it.