Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson slammed his side’s catastrophic defending after a pulsating 4-3 win over Reading on Saturday.
United extended their lead at the top of the Premier League to three points with the win but Ferguson was left stunned as his side conceded three goals in the opening 23 minutes before going ahead 4-3 in the 34th.
“It was agony, the worst defending this season, without a doubt. To lose three goals in that manner – we’ve got to do something about that,” Ferguson told BBC Sport.
“We’re having to rescue the situation all the time. Fortunately we’ve got players who can do that. Wayne (Rooney) today, in the first half, I thought was absolutely magnificent. He and (Robin) Van Persie and Ashley Young were a threat to them all the time.
“We should have had a fifth goal, I don’t know why it wasn’t allowed. It was at least a foot over the line. In the second half we had two or three real good opportunities to finish it off. With the nature of that game today, I was just glad to get over the line to be honest with you.
“We need to sort that out, or we’ll get battered. We deserved to be battered today. But scoring goals rescues us all the time.”
Chris Smalling was brought on after just 31 minutes in place of Rafael, who stormed off the pitch and refused Ferguson’s offer of a hand-shake.
Ferguson did not criticise the 22-year-old right back when asked about his reaction to being substituted.
“That’s nothing, the boy was disappointed at coming off. He’s been one of our best players all season,” he said.
The result gave the Red Devils a three-point lead over City who they face at the Etihad Stadium next weekend, and Ferguson insists they must improve.
“It’s going to be a tough game. You know the quality of Manchester City, they’re a terrific team. And if we defend like that then … I’ll be able to play myself,” the manager joked.
Reading manager Brian McDermott praised his side’s effort in taking the game right up to the defending Premier League champions.
“It was a fantastic effort and quality as well. I’m so proud of our players today,” he said.
“We know what our agenda is for this season. There is no problem with confidence from our players.
“I think we are becoming people’s second team in the Premier League. We want our results to match our performance and hopefully that will come. Hopefully it is good to watch for our fans.”