Date: 19th February 2013 at 4:10pm
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Reading put in a valiant and contesting performance in the fifth round of the FA Cup yesterday, despite going out at the hands of Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Royals boss Brian McDermott made six changes to his side, while Sir Alex Ferguson also made numourous changes to his side, following their draw against Real Madrid last week. Despite the changes, it was a very strong start from United, as Javier Hernandez had a shot blocked well by Marriappa, before a smart, reverse ball inside put Danny Welbeck through, by Federici thwarted the forward’s effort.

After the early exchanges, it looked as if it could be a long night for the Royals faithful, but gradually worked their way into the match. Set pieces were Reading’s strong point when both sides met in December and looked dangerous again, as Nicky Shorey’s delivery from the left was perfect for 6’4 defender Sean Morrison, but was denied a certain goal by the head of United captain Nemanjda Vidic.

Adam Federici has shown drastic improvement in recent weeks and portrayed another fine performances between the sticks again. Ashley Young’s square ball for Tom Cleverley allowed the midfield to fizz a low effort towards the Reading goal, which Federici palmed away well and the best was to come, as the Australian somehow reacted superbly to push away Young’s follow up.

Adam Le Fondre was gifted his first start in a month and almost justified his manager’s decision, after his 20-yard drive forced a smart save out of David De Gea. As half time approached, United then hit the post, as substitute Nani struck a fine volley, as Federici could only watch it rebound wide of his goal. It was goalless at the break, with the Reading resistance proving strong.

The second half started similarly to the first period, as you expect, with the home side firmly on top. Anderson forced a smart save out of Federici in the early minutes. Nani was trying his luck from distance, coming closer and closer and eventually broke the deadlock at Old Trafford. Valencia’s attempted ball was deflected kindly into the path of the winger, who needed no second invitation to smash his effort into the bottom corner.

Reading almost responded straight away, as Le Fondre’s swivelling left-footed effort forced a smart save out of De Gea from Karacan’s cross. However, the Red Devils went up the other end to double their advantage, as Valencia’s superb cross was perfect for the predatory instincts of Javier Hernandez to nod home and surely secure United’s place in the quarter final with 18 minutes to go.

As ever, McDermott’s men would refuse to give up. They pressed the United backline and forced a goal back, as a flick on from Le Fondre allowed captain Jobi McAnuff to swift onto his left-foot and slot comfortably past De Gea to put the Royals right back into the cup tie. The Royals almost snatched a dramatic equaliser, but Le Fondre was denied once again by the impressive De Gea.

Hernandez came close to reinstating the two goal lead advantage, but it was the equally impressive Federici who made a stupendous save, running back to deny the Mexican international a consolation goal. We may not have progressed, but we can be proud of how we gave Unietd a close game, which many teams have not and will not be able to do this season. We can draw more positives than negatives from this encounter.

Manchester United: De Gea, Smalling, Jones, Vidic (c), Buttner, Anderson, Cleverley, Young, Valencia, Hernandez, Welbeck
Subs: Lindegaard, Ferdinand, Carrick, Giggs, Nani, Kagawa, van Persie

Reading: Federici, Kelly, Mariappa, Morrison, Shorey, Karacan, Leigertwood, McAnuff (C), McCleary, Hunt, Le Fondre
Subs: Andersen, Gunter, Pearce, Carrico, Guthrie, Robson-Kanu, Pogrebnyak