Sir Alex Ferguson hit out at his defenders as Manchester United survived a crazy first-half to go top of the Premier League with a 4-3 win at lowly Reading.
United twice fell behind as all seven goals were scored in the opening 34 minutes at the Madjeski Stadium. The Red Devils quickly responded to Hal Robson-Kanu's opener, with Anderson and Wayne Rooney on target, only to immediately hand the lead back to their hosts following two defensive set-piece lapses.
Diminutive striker Adam Le Fondre and Sean Morrison were allowed free headers to leave United 3-2 down and Ferguson responded by hauling off Rafael for Chris Smalling. The move seemingly worked, as a second Rooney goal and a Robin van Persie strike quickly followed, while United's fragility at the back disappeared.
But Ferguson still fumed afterwards, branding the defensive display the worst of the season.
"I thought it might be a record Premier League score at half-time,'' Ferguson told ESPN. It was really, really bad defending. "That was the absolute worst it's been this season. We deserved to get battered today. We scored goals thankfully which rescued us.''
United's victory was their seventh after falling behind this season and Ferguson admitted he was becoming increasingly frustrated.
"If you make mistakes like that defending then you are going to have to do rescue jobs every week,'' he said. "Today was another rescue job. It was a miracle that we won the way we were defending. I'm just glad we did win it.''
Speaking about his decision to substitute Rafael, who looked less than impressed as he walked to the bench, Ferguson added: "I brought Chris Smalling on, which was an improvement in terms of height. The boy was disappointed coming off. He has been one of our best players this season.''
Rooney labelled United's first-half display as "crazy'' but believes the character of the team ensured they secured a win that moved them three points clear of Manchester City ahead of next weekend's derby.
"It was crazy to be honest but we dug in there,'' he said. "We knew that in the first half our defending from set-pieces wasn't good enough and that can cost us. In the second half we wanted to be more solid. We were happy to get the three points.''
Asked what was said at half-time, he added: "Just to defend better, to stay with our runners and get against our players at set-pieces. In the second half we did that.''
United's tendency to give up leads continued but Rooney is unconcerned by the trend.
"I'm sure for the coaches and fans to watch it is agonising,'' he said. "But we always believe that even though we went behind twice today that we could win. I think we showed there is great character in this team.''