Wayne Rooney drew level with Bobby Charlton as Manchester United’s record goalscorer as the holders beat Reading 4-0 in the FA Cup third round.
The club captain struck his 249th goal after only seven minutes at Old Trafford before he set up Anthony Martial to score the second, with Marcus Rashford netting a second-half double in a routine victory at Old Trafford.
Rooney’s last goal came against Feyenoord in the Europa League in November but he marked his return from a hamstring injury with a fortuitous finish to set a slick United on their way to victory.
Jose Mourinho made nine changes to the team that won 2-0 at West Ham on Sunday and two of those new faces, Martial and Rashford, gave the Reading defence a torrid time in a first half in which the hosts should have killed off the game.
Reading rallied after the break but there was to be no happy Old Trafford return for manager Jaap Stam as Rashford’s cool finish and a howler from Ali Al Habsi helped United to an eighth win in a row in all competitions and kept their trophy defence alive.
But the day largely belonged to Rooney, with England’s record goalscorer now only one short of achieving the same feat for his club.
Marcus Rashford shot narrowly wide from the edge of the area and Al Habsi reacted well to keep out a Rooney effort within the first two minutes, as United set about seizing an early advantage.
With seven minutes played, they found their breakthrough as Rooney at last drew level with Charlton. Martial played the ball into the feet of Juan Mata inside the area, and his cross was prodded into the net from 12 yards by the captain.
18 – Man Utd mustered 18 shots in the opening 45 minutes, their highest total in the first half of a match under Jose Mourinho. Dominating.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 7, 2017
United doubled their advantage after quarter of an hour, as Martial latched onto Rooney’s pass, strode into the penalty area and slotted beyond Al Habsi, who could have done more to keep out the shot.
Rashford fired into the side-netting after rounding Al Habsi and saw the 35-year-old parry another good effort as United threatened to run riot before half-time, although Liam Moore almost turned in Joey van den Berg’s volley to give Reading a lifeline.
Michael Carrick had Al Habsi at full stretch shortly after the restart as United looked to press their advantage and kill the game quickly, although Reading began to produce a more spirited performance.
Rooney passed up a golden chance for a record-breaking second goal when he failed to lift the ball over Al Habsi from point-blank range after the goalkeeper had spilled Marouane Fellaini’s effort, before Rashford somehow failed to connect with the captain’s low cross from the left with the goal at his mercy.
249 – Wayne Rooney is now Manchester United’s joint-highest scorer of all-time along with Bobby Charlton (249). History. pic.twitter.com/9w5sbRG7vR
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 7, 2017
Reading began to enjoy some sustained possession as United slackened their own pace, although a wayward hit from Danny Williams from 20 yards out rather summed up their attacking precision.
And that lack of cutting edge was exposed 15 minutes from time. Moore missed the ball as he tried to intercept Carrick’s pass, allowing Rashford to race through into the penalty area before slotting beneath Al Habsi.
Substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger made his second appearance of the season to a rousing reception, but United fans saved a bigger cheer for the fourth and final goal.
Al Habsi dithered over a backpass before swiping at thin air as he attempted to clear the ball, allowing Rashford to blast the ball into the net from barely a yard out for his first double since the league win over Arsenal last February.
Key Opta Stats:
– Wayne Rooney (249 goals in 543 apps) is now Manchester United’s joint-highest scorer of all-time along with Bobby Charlton.
– Man Utd have won eight consecutive matches in all competitions for the first time since September 2009. Indeed, this is Jose Mourinho’s longest winning run with an English club since January 2006 (eight wins in a row with Chelsea).
– Marcus Rashford scored his first brace for Man Utd since his Premier League debut against Arsenal in February 2016.
– Anthony Martial has had a hand in seven goals in his last seven FA Cup outings for Man Utd (three goals, four assists).
– Ali Al Habsi has conceded 17 goals in his five appearances against Manchester United at Old Trafford (3.4 per game).
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