Another frailty-defying victory for Manchester United, another mildly promising defeat for Reading. That match had it all – seven goals, a penalty, an officiating howler, an awful goalkeeping cock-up, a succession of first-time backheel flicks, an injury, a stroppy substitute, and a good 40 minutes of near-chanceless boredom. The madness was a whole lot more enjoyable than the sanity.
Anyway, thanks for sharing it with me. Have a lovely Saturday night, and feel free to spend it with us – there's an MLS Cup MBM to come, you know!
It's all over
90+3 mins: Peeeeeeeeep! Zzzzzzzzzzz!
90+2 mins: Shorey's next corner, this time from the left side, again finds Morrison beyond the back post. This time his header flies over the bar.
90+1 mins: Shorey's corner finds Morrison in loads of space beyond the back stick, but his header lacks conviction or accuracy. Still, it looks like it might drop under the bar on the bounce, and Lindegaard tips it over.
90+1 mins: Reading have a corner, in the first of three minutes of stoppage time.
90 mins: If the halves had been swapped, with a boring, limp first half followed by a rip-roaring, incident-packed, goal-bloated second, this would be remembered as one of the finest, most entertaining matches of the season. As it is, booooooooo!
88 mins: United pass the ball about for a while, the ball passing through Carrick about half a dozen times, before Smalling is picked out, in space to the right of Reading's penalty area. He lashes the ball over the bar from an unpromising distance/angle combo.
86 mins: This will be the seventh game this season United have won despite falling behind. That's admirable, I suppose, though not as admirable as not falling behind in the first place.
82 mins: The best part of 50 footballing minutes have passed since the last goal. Booooooo! Noel Hunt comes on for Robson-Kanu.
79 mins: Tabb is booked for not touching Ashley Young, who ignores the lack of contact and goes flying. Garath McCleary comes on for McAnuff.
77 mins: A thunderous challenge by Mariappa takes the ball from Jones' toe, and United must be a little bit worried about the amount of time he takes to get back to his feet. They don't want to spend the last quarter-hour with 10 men.
76 mins: The ball isn't bouncy enough and has been replaced. So that's why they haven't been scoring goals.
75 mins: Tabb collects Shorey's pass and sets off towards goal, and then blasts the ball over the bar from 25 yards.
74 mins: United use up their last substitution by bringing Danny Welbeck on for Robin van Persie.
73 mins: Ashley Young cuts inside from the left wing, and shoots. Throw in. What is going on with this match? Do you remember when football was fun? When goals flowed like wine at a wedding?
71 mins: I am getting a lot of stick for not knowing more about the Princess Bride. I saw it when I was much, much younger. I forget stuff. I'll try to watch it again sometime, really I will, but I'm always at least one Match of the Day behind, and I still haven't finished season four of the Wire, and there's only so many hours in the day.
69 mins: Reading bring off Jason Roberts, and bring on Pavel Pogrebnyak.
67 mins: Ludicrous miss from Van Persie! Federici collects a back-pass and tries to take the ball round Van Persie, who is closing him down at pace. He fails. The ball runs free, and Van Persie reaches it just beyond the left-hand post. Still, it's an easy chance and he only needs to get the ball on target, but he blazes over.
65 mins: United attack again. Young slides the ball to the overlapping Jones, whose cut-back is behind Van Persie. The Dutchman does well to improvise any kind of shot, but the ball flies over the bar.
64 mins: Evra gets to the byline and picks out Rooney, well beyond the back stick. He turns down an optimistic volley, controls the ball and rolls it towards Fletcher, but it's behind the midfielder, forcing him into a first-time backheel flick. That is the fifth, I think, notable first-time backheel flick from United today, but this one finds Evra, who is offside.
61 mins: Evans misjudges a bouncing ball, leaving Roberts clear on goal. The referee, though, decides that Roberts' shove was the cause of Evans' misjudgement, and gives a foul. "Does anyone else reflexively think 'Dread Pirate Roberts' whenever Jason Roberts' name is mentioned?" asks Richard Johnson. "I may have watched The Princess Bride a few times with my children." I genuinely have no idea what you're on about.
58 mins: Le Fondre gets the ball in the penalty area, but is facing the wrong way. Evans eventually cleared the ball off his toe, into Evra and out of play. The referee inexplicably decides it's a goal kick.
57 mins: Le Fondre gets a 15-yard overhead kick on target, but it's a straightforward save.
56 mins: Reading win a corner. Lindegaard comes for the ball, gets two hands on it but only pats it down in front of him. It falls to a Reading player, but he's facing the wrong way. It's worked to Roberts, but Evra arrives with a smart tackle. Reading think they should get a penalty, but this is a call that Halsey gets right.
55 mins: Suddenly Reading break. Roberts has the ball, charging down the right. Le Fondre waits in the middle for the cross. The cross is rubbish.
54 mins: The last goal was 20 football-playing minutes ago. Booooo!
52 mins: Manchester United have been attacking for the last couple of minutes, but without great conviction. So far tonight, if there's no first-time backheel flick in the build-up they don't score.
49 mins: "Has there been a match more emblematic of the shambles/awesomeness that is the 2012/2013 EPL?" wonders Jesse Galdston. "I say no. It's got goals galore, poor keeping, absurd defending, true moments of skill/genius, a bizarre penalty, and one of the worst pieces of officiating you'll ever see." I think you overplay it – it was just bad officiating. But I get your point.
48 mins: McAnuff's shot flies over the bar.
46 mins: The second half gets under way. Actually it got under way a couple of minutes ago, but I was busy changing the picture at the top of the page. Sorry.
Rafael ignored Ferguson and indeed everyone else as he stropped off the pitch, leading to this semi-amusing coat-flinging imbroglio.
Seven goals, two substitutions, a penalty, an officiating howler and a wildly sulking footballer – and it's only half time! Now wonder they say this is the best league in the world.
45+3 mins: Peeeeep! It's half-time! Reading ended that half on the front foot, and have no reason not to feel they can win this.
45+1 mins: There will be three minutes of additional time at the end of the first half. Enough for a couple of goals, I'd have thought.
45 mins: Phil Jones is now on.
44 mins: Save! Robson-Kanu cuts onto his left foot and curls in a shot that Lindegaard just about pushes away from danger.
43 mins: Anderson, meanwhile, has only gone and got himself injured. United will make their second first-half substitution imminently, bringin on Phil Jones.
The ball was a yard over the line!
42 mins: The replay comes, and the ball was indisputably over the line. That's an officiating horrorshow. "This is like a re-run of the first football game you ever play on Playstation when you switch to 'amateur' level, neither player has a clue how to operate the controls, and goals are pinging in every seven seconds," writes Jon Wilde.
Incredible goal-line clearance/impossible miss/terrible decision from the linesman!
40 mins: Young crosses from the left, Smalling's header is saved, the ball rebounds to Van Persie and his shot at an all-but-empty net hits the only defender trying to stop him. But was the ball over the line? It might very well have been. Give me a replay!
38 mins: There has never been more than seven goals in a Premier League first half. We've got seven minutes, plus some stoppage time, to make history.
36 mins: Shorey lines up a free kick, 25 yards out. Because of the way this game is going, I am already writing up the goal before he even strikes the ball. It floats into Lindegaard's arms, sadly. Boring!
GOAL! Reading 3-4 Manchester United (Van Persie 34)
What in the name of Shredded Wheat is going on here? Another backheel flick, this time from Rooney, releases a borderline-offside Van Persie, whose finish is clinical. "This is what football should be about," sighs John via email. "None of this boring tactics and competence rubbish."
32 mins: Rafael disconsolately strops off the pitch as he is replaced by Smalling. He slumps into his seat on the bench, where Welbeck consoles him. He looks on the verge of tears. Jobi McAnuff did that to him.
GOAL! Reading 3-3 Manchester United (Rooney, 30)
A gorgeous backheel flick from Ashley Young released Patrice Evra, who slides the ball across the penalty area where Rooney boshes the ball into the net, low and hard.
28 mins: United just about scramble the ball away from the free-kick. "What are the chances of this finishing 38-21 to Reading?" ponders Simon McMahon.
28 mins: Rafael is booked for wrestling McAnuff to the ground.
26 mins: Both teams have been guilty of sub-cereal box defending. Not all that's been inexplicable, though: how Fletcher got away without a booking for a clumsy midfield trip there is beyond me. "For me the best were Lucky Charms," writes Nick Thompson, about cereals. "Can't get them over here without paying crazy prices. Last time I was in the US I bought a box, had no bowl or spoon so ate them out of a cup."
GOAL! Reading 3-2 Manchester United (Morrison 23)
When the corner comes in from Shorey, Roberts stops Lindegaard from coming off his line and it's the cereal-eater himself who crashes the ball into the net with his muesli-packed bonce.
23 mins: As he waits for the corner, Jason Roberts alternately makes "what me, guv?" innocent shrugs, and bullishly shoulders Evra in the chest.
21 mins: Rafael concedes a free-kick level with the edge of the penalty area but out on the left wing. It gets half-cleared, runs right, and Robson-Kanu skins Carrick and chips the ball to the back stick, where Le Fondre is only just beaten to the ball.
GOAL! Reading 2-2 Manchester United (Le Fondre 19)
Reading win a corner on the right, swing it in and Adam Le Fondre is entirely unmarked back centre, seven yards out when he rises to nod the ball home.
GOAL! Reading 1-2 Manchester United (Rooney 16pen)
Federici dives to his right, and Rooney slaps the ball to his left. Nicely taken. Tabb should be feeling a little sheepish at this point.
Penalty to Manchester United!
Rooney overhits the penalty but Evans controls it and is just wondering what to do next when Tabb runs into his back and sends him sprawling.
15 mins: La-de-dah backheel from Robin Van Persie at the edge of the penalty area to play in Young, whose low cross is deflected behind.
GOAL! Reading 1-1 Manchester United
14 mins: From Robson-Kanu's cross United break, with Anderson's lovely first-time flick finding Young on the left wing, Young sliding the ball back into the Brazilian's path and his first-time shot surprising Federici and flying in at the near-post.
13 mins: Reading have continued attacking since the goal, though both Adam Le Fondre and Hal Robson-Kanu have sent in harmless right-wing crosses. "A friend's father once returned a box of muesli and claimed a refund (and got one!), because 'there weren't enough raisins'. Now that is some principled cereal eating," writes Matt Dony. I want to know the brand – most mueslis are ruined by an excess of dried fruit, in my opinion. Fortunately I have had children, who will gladly eat the unwanted raisins I pick out of my breakfast bowl.
10 mins: A link for those who don't know what David Wall meant when he mentioned "Gary Lineker's trick" (4 mins)
GOAL! Reading 1-0 Manchester United!
8 mins: A cross from the left by McAnuff is abysmally dealt with by Evans, who headed the ball limply to the edge of the six-yard box, where Robson-Kanu thunders in a left-foot volley. Nice finish, terrible defending. Nowt wrong with conceding a corner there.
7 mins: Van Persie cuts inside, and slides his pass absurdly wide of its target, and away for a throw-in. "Forget all that pansy stuff about Alpen and müsli, surely the only cereal with a bite in it is a giant-size packet of the original Shredded Wheat, guaranteed to last a week (as long as you keep it under lock and key)," writes Nigel Moore. "The only problem is that living here in Sweden, you can't buy it." That would seem to be a fairly significant problem.
4 mins: Ashley Young cuts in from the left and curls his shot absurdly wide of goal, and only just the right side of the corner flag. David Wall is concerned about Sean Morrison. "That sounds like an awful lot of fibre in his diet (aren't most breakfast cereals relatively high fibre, not merely those like Shredded Wheat and Alpen, similar to how they're almost all fortified to be high in various minerals and vitamins?)," he writes. "I wonder if he's ever been inconvenienced during a match and had to ask to be substituted or resorted to Gary Lineker's trick." Dare I ask what Gary Lineker's trick was? Presumably nothing to do with Steve Harrison's?
2 mins: Reading mount the first attack, but Cummings' low cross is intercepted.
1 min: We are off. Reading get us under way, going from left to right as the television cameras look at things.
But don't even think about giving me the sugar-free stuff. There is nothing pleasurable there at all.
Personally I love a bit of Alpen, but think it's improved by being mixed with a bit of something crunchy.
Every email I've so far received has basically been nasty about Ashley Young. "I was suspicious and disappointed to say the least when United signed Ashley Young, but his early performances made me hold my hands up and think 'Fergie's got it right, again'," admits Paul Bergin. "Far be it from me to question Lord Ferg, but the hands went down and have remained firmly there for over a year now. And before you ask; it's a comfort thing."
The players are out, and we are a few moments, a silly anthem and a bucketload of handshakes away from action.
Sean Morrison's cereal reviews
By way of example, here's Sean Morrison's Twitter review of Alpen. The bloke is either mad, or brilliant.
Not very appealing on the eye as it sits in the bowl looking up at U! However there is something telling me not 2 judge a book by its cover— sean morrison (@seanmorrison_91) November 29, 2012
I've discovered a way to enhance the taste of this ridiculed cereal! Its all about the milk! Quantity and the amount u pour in each time— sean morrison (@seanmorrison_91) November 29, 2012
You must NOT drown this little bowl of oaty goodness! Be gentle! Treat it like a woman! Caress the milk into the bowl softy with the utmost— sean morrison (@seanmorrison_91) November 29, 2012
Do not DROWN the cereal! This is vital! This technique will allow the true essence of ALPEN to scream from the mountain tops! The once— sean morrison (@seanmorrison_91) November 29, 2012
Boring, bland cereal is nw a household FAV! Flavoursome and beautiful! ... 4/5 spoons ... You can thank me later people! #cerealquest— sean morrison (@seanmorrison_91) November 29, 2012
Ray Stubbs has just reminded me of Sean Morrison's cereal challenge. "It will take a long, long, time to go through every cereal that I can get my hands on. I think I might just have to buy a box of cereal, have one bowl and throw it away," he said, a couple of weeks back, as he announced his desire to try every breakfast cereal available in the UK. “I eat a lot of cereal and it’s what I snack on at home. At 10pm I might be watching my TV catch-up, a bit of Australian Master Chef, I’ll go and get a bowl of Golden Grahams. Anything golden is my choice at the moment, which is why Cereal Quest has come about. I need to try and educate myself and let people know what the best cereal is out there. Some cereals you only get two bowls out of because the boxes are so small, so maybe I get through three boxes a week? It’s not that many, is it? It’s a big bowl and a big spoon too."
I hope he's tried the apple & cinnamon crunchy stuff they sell at Marks & Spencer, that's really something. Special occasion cereal, that.
So United bring in Rio Ferdinand, Darren Fletcher and Ashley Young, and shuffle out Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley and Javier Hernández. Reading lost 1-0 at Aston Villa on Tuesday with the same starting XI they've gone with tonight.
Reading: Federici, Cummings, Mariappa, Morrison, Shorey, Robson-Kanu, Leigertwood, Tabb, McAnuff, Le Fondre, Roberts. Subs: Taylor, Pearce, Pogrebnyak, Hunt, McCleary, Guthrie, Harte.
Man Utd: Lindegaard, Da Silva, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Fletcher, Anderson, Carrick, Young, Rooney, Van Persie. Subs: De Gea, Jones, Giggs, Smalling, Hernández, Welbeck, Cleverley.
Referee: Mark Halsey.
Hello world! Well, I come into this fresh – and by "fresh" I do indeed mean "knackered, slightly jaded and totally unprepared" – from England's stunning oval-ball triumph over New Zealand. If this is half as manic, astonishing and enjoyable as that I will be both surprised and delighted. Anyway, you'll be wanting some teams, I expect.
Simon will be here from 5pm. In the meantime, here's Jamie Jackson:
There have been four top-flight games between these sides and Reading can take heart from the draws they have achieved on two of those occasions. Less heartening, however, is the Royals' current league position – they are 19th having won only once all season and now come up against a Manchester United side who lead the division despite not having clicked into high gear. Sir Alex Ferguson will expect three points before resting his big guns for Wednesday's Champions League dead rubber against CFR Cluj.