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Reading 4-0 Sheffield United: Blades blunted as Royals set for Old Trafford test

It's a sign of the times that a 4-0 win over Sheffield United can be met with such apathy and it's an even stronger sign of how far we've come when a fifth round trip to Old Trafford is met by groans from the fanbase.

Charlie Crowhurst

Reading: Federici (7); Shorey (7); Mariappa (7), Morrison (6), Kelly (8); Robson-Kanu (7), Karacan (6), Leigertwood (7), McCleary (7); Hunt (8), Le Fondre (6) Subs: Guthrie (6)

There's little to say or take away from this one, other than what we already knew. Reading have a decent Premier League starting XI but very little Premier League quality behind them. What they do have is a team of higher quality Championship players who on their day can do a decent job and have more than enough ability to see off a distinctly average looking League One outfit such as Sheffield United.

Going into the game the talk centred around Dave Kitson's return and the former Royals striker got a decent reception whenever his name was read out and when he appeared for the warm-ups.

There was also a very well respected and deserved minute's applause for Chris Armstrong who is deservedly held in high esteem by fans from two of his former clubs.

As for the match itself, Reading took an early lead when Noel Hunt got on the end of Hal Robson-Kanu's cross to ease any tensions lingering from a crowd who'd seen League One opposition cause an upset on the same ground 12 months ago.

From there it should have been easy, but Reading seemed far too casual and couldn't kill the game off, allowing the Blades to slowly push out and get closer and closer to scoring an equaliser. Nick Blackman was probably United's stand-out performer and he created their first good chance as his low cross across the penalty area couldn't quite find the foot of the other onrushing attackers and skidded out via a Reading player. Chris Porter then could have scored when he found space in the area, only to head wide with the goal gaping.

Reading were struggling to create anything and only woke up five minutes before half time, when Mikele Leigertwood fired a shot in from 20 yards that took a deflection on its way in.

That goal all but killed it as a spectacle and two quickfire goals at the start of the second half from McCleary and Hunt well and truly ended it. There were a couple of chances for both sides but it had the feel of a pre-season game and Reading were more than satisfied to be in the fifth round for the third time in four seasons.

Performance wise and Adam Federici had relatively little to do. You can see why we stick with our number one but it would have been nice to see Mikkel Andersen or Stuart Taylor given the chance to play after being so patient all season.

Stephen Kelly looked very composed and assured at right-back and while he was facing lower league opposition, I'm hoping he'll have that same solidifying impact that Andy Griffin had upon his arrival three years ago. Nicky Shorey was restored to the starting XI and did OK without putting in a display that screamed 'I'M BETTER THAN HARTE!!'.

Mariappa and Morrison dealt with United well, though the later looked understandably rusty after such little first team action recently.

Hal Robson-Kanu put in a great cross for our opener but again hardly put in a performance that would have had the rested Jobi McAnuff quaking. Garath McCleary had a low key first half but seemed to wake up a bit at the start of the second, providing a well taken goal as well as an assist for Hunt's second.

Captain for the day Mikele Leigertwood looked a bit more comfortable at this level, with more time on the ball and fewer chances to make an error. His distribution still wasn't great but we've come to accept that and he did take his goal well. Jem Karacan was perhaps the biggest disappointment for me on the day, really struggling to get into the game and failing to stamp any authority on the play. Truth be told, so much of the play was focussed around direct balls from one end of the pitch to the other, it was hard for any midfielder to look impressive.

Up front and Noel Hunt was full of energy and deserved his goals. As well as his two strikes he also provided the most entertaining moment of the game when he flicked the ball over the head of a United defender in a moment that's almost certain to make the showboat on Soccer AM. Adam Le Fondre didn't have quite as much fun, working hard but really struggling to make an impact on a day when chances in front of goal were lacking. Alfie has now made 28 starts for the club but has scored just seven goals from open play during that time and four of those strikes came in two games against Derby and Crawley. As much as I love him and value his impact, there's still a few question marks as to whether he's got the all-round play to be a 90 minute player at the highest level.

Danny Guthrie had a 10 minute cameo and I can't even remember if he touched it...

On the Blades front and they looked tidy but didn't pose too much of a threat. Dave Kitson did a good enough job holding the ball up and making a few good flicks but he's a shadow of the player that was so prolific in Berkshire during the previous decade.

Overall despite a few gripes, you can't really be unhappy with a 4-0 win. As Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham have all found out this weekend, there's no such thing as an easy cuptie.

The low attendance was a bit disappointing. Less than 15,000 showed up for this one but then given the opposition and a two further home games this week, it's perhaps understandable.

Sadly our path into the quarter-finals couldn't be much harder with our fifth round tie being a trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United. Ten years ago we would have been jumping round the living room with joy at the prospect of a trip to the North West to face the Premier League leaders but today it just seems like an opportunity lost to earn a day out at Wembley. Still, Portsmouth and West Ham both picked up unexpected cup wins at Old Trafford while an Adam Federici inspired Reading team also earned a replay in 2007, so here's hoping we can upset the odds again.

For now it's back to the fight for Premier League survival and the next stop is the visit of Chelsea who'll no doubt provide a few more problems than we saw on Saturday.