After United swept aside Arsenal on Saturday evening it would be fate that drew Sir Alex Ferguson’s men together with the blue half of Manchester, providing they could beat their Championship opponents, and City kept up their end of the bargain. Although there have been more convincing wins at Eastlands this season for the Blues, this could possibly be the most vital of them all. As a result, anticipation will begin to grow as City prepare for their attempt at denting their fierce rivals’ hopes of a treble on the weekend of April 16th.
United beat Mancini’s men in the semi-finals of the Carling Cup last season and Carlos Tevez and friends will no doubt be out for revenge, but they will have to up their game in the coming weeks, starting with the return leg of their Europa League tie with Dynamo Kiev on Thursday. It will take more than a header from defender Richards to overturn that 2-0 deficit, but that was all it took to break Reading’s resilience.
City’s play, for the most part, was slow and deliberate, consequently allowing them the opportunity to control possession. Brian McDermott had set his Championship play-off hopefuls to be organised, and will have been pleased with his side’s performance. The Berkshire outfit belied their defensive problems, which saw midfielders Jem Karacan and Brynjar Gunnarsson play as makeshift defenders, and had their chances in the first-half to establish a foothold in the game. Utilising the pace of Jimmy Kebe on the break, Reading would normally look to Noel Hunt for goals but he was thwarted on a number of occasions by Joe Hart.
For the home side, David Silva was perhaps the most impressive of those that started the game, showing flashes of brilliance when linking up with Tevez and forcing a number of saves from visiting goalkeeper Alex McCarthy. Shaun Wright-Phillips too, making the most of a rare start handed to him by Mancini, caused the Reading defence problems with his electric pace, but all too often an end product was lacking.
That will have to be rectified in the coming weeks if City are to make the most of their chances across domestic competitions and Europe, but avoiding a replay here will have eased any potential pressure on their squad immensely. Despite being forced to wait until 15 minutes from time, City’s goal was richly deserved on the overall balance of play.
Progressing to the semi-finals of the FA Cup in little more than third gear will no doubt please Mancini, especially with a number of key games approaching. It remains to be seen, however, whether the blue moon will be rising come the middle of April.