Manchester United secured their progression to the FA Cup fourth round with a relatively straight-forward 2-0 victory over Championship side Reading at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Juan Mata won a penalty, albeit via a consultation from VAR, in the 22nd minute. The Spaniard himself took responsibility and scored to give United the lead. Romelu Lukaku extended the advantage just before the break as he was played through before rounding Reading goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola and finishing into the empty net to make sure of victory for the hosts against their stubborn visitors.
Slow start at Old Trafford
It took a while for the first chance of the game to arrive as a much-changed Red Devils side struggled to find their groove. However, a wonderful combination between Fred, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez saw the Chilean put a powerful effort over from just outside of the area.
Reading then had a great opportunity to take the lead as Andy Yiadom was fed on the right-hand side of the area. The full-back had plenty of time to pick his spot but blazed the ball high and wide into the crowd.
VAR in the spotlight
Solsjkaer’s men were then given a wonderful chance to take the lead, albeit after consulting VAR. Mata fed through Fred, who converted from close range. The goal itself was ruled out for offside but the referee pulled play back for a penalty after the Spaniard was revealed to have been bundled over in the penalty area. Mata himself stepped up and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to open the scoring.
Lukaku, leading the line for United from the start for the first time since mid-December, then had an opportunity to double the lead as he out-muscled Liam Moore. Through one-on-one, the Belgian was denied by a low stop from Reading stopper Anssi Jaakkola.
Reading chances before the break but United extend lead
Despite falling behind, the Championship strugglers responded well. As a matter of fact, they should have equalised as Danny Loader ran clean through and rounded Sergio Romero, only to send the ball into the side netting from a tight angle.
The Royals had another chance to equalise just before the break as Yiadom turned in the penalty area and unleashed a fierce drive that had to be tipped behind by the Red Devils goalkeeper.
It was to be the hosts who were the next to find the net though through Lukaku. An error from John Swift saw the ball presented to Sanchez. The Chilean played through the striker, who tore down on goal, skipped around Jaakkola and finished into the unguarded net for his third goal in as many games.
Reading resume well
Gomes’ men kept pushing after the half-time break as Swift and Callum Harriott both drew Romero into saves. Sone Aluko was introduced to the clash and also forced a sprawling stop from the Argentine.
Despite pushing throughout the majority of the second period, the Championship side weren’t quite able to find the net as United ran out comfortable winners.
Nothing mattered but the result for United at Old Trafford. Whilst the Red Devils weren’t quite at the sparkling best that fans have been treated to in recent weeks, Solskjaer’s men had the quality to edge beyond their stubborn visitors. They now head into Sunday’s game against Tottenham Hotpsur unscathed as they aim to chase down the top four. Meanwhile, Reading are now forced to focus on their fight for survival in the Championship.
Manchester United: Romero (7); Young (6), Dalot (7), Jones (7), Darmian (6); McTominay (7), Fred (6) (Fellaini (6), 62′), A. Pereira (7); Mata (7) (Chong (6), 61′), Lukaku (7), Sanchez (7) (Rashford (6), 64′).
Reading: Jaakkola (7); Richards (6), Moore (7), Ilori (6) (Aluko (5), 45′), Yiadom (6); Rinomhota (6), Kelly (6); Harriott (7) (Meite (N/A, 76′), Swift (6), McCleary (6) (Barrow (6), 61′); Loader (5).
Goals: Mata PEN (22′), Lukaku (45+4′)
Referee: Stuart Atwell
Yellow Cards: Yiadom (33′), Chong (77′)
Red Cards: N/A
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