Brazilian magic saw Manchester United cruise to a 3-1 victory over Championship side Reading at Old Trafford.
Casemiro bagged a brace with Fred the other scorer for the home side.
Amadou Salif Mbengue scored Readings only goal.
Former West Ham striker Andy Carrol took an early bath after multiple fouls saw him pick up two yellow cards.
This result sees United safely through to the fifth round of the FA Cup, improving on last seasons fourth round collapse to Middlesborough on penalties.
The draw for the fifth round will commence on Monday night before Derby face West Ham.
In previous meetings, United have faced Reading 21 times, winning 14, drawing seven and losing just once all the way back in 1927 in the FA Cup. In the limited games played, 15 of the 21 were also in the FA cup. Thus, previous results favoured the home side.
Reading sat 16th in the Championship table, only five points of the playoff places.
United sat fourth, level on points with Newcastle, 11 points off leaders Arsenal.
Reading headed into the game on rocky form having won just two games in their previous six.
Meanwhile, United headed into the game in top form, having won 10 home games in a row, and eight wins in their last 10.
- David de Gea
- Aaron Wan Bissaka
- Victor Lindelof
- Harry Maguire
- Tyrell Malacia
- Christian Eriksen
- Bruno Fernandes
- Wout Weghorst
- Marcus Rashford
- Joe Lumley
- Andy Yiadom
- Thomas Holmes
- Tom McIntyre
- Junior Hoilett
- Thomas Ince
- Mamadou Loum Ndiaye
- Jeff Hendrick
- Abdul Rahman Baba
- Lucas Joao
- Andy Carroll
Key talking Points
With a heavily congested fixture list, Erik Ten Hag’s decision to field a strong United side may have come as a surprise. Excluding injuries and illnesses, the centre half pairing is the only natural alterations made by the Dutch coach. United captain Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof providing the rotation.
Thus, despite United’s form and quality difference over Reading, Ten Hag wasn’t taking any chances of defeat.
As expected, United started on the front foot dominating possession.
The first real chance of the game came from a trademark Marcus Rashford freekick as the Englishman used his knuckleball technique to fire from range towards the goalkeeper. Joe Lumley parried it away but only into the path of Christian Eriksen who’s follow up effort was blocked.
Antony was probing for United when midway through the first half the Brazilian took the ball on the counter, darting down the right wing before cutting in on his left and placing a deft pass into Bruno Fernandes, who’s effort flashed just narrowly wide of the left post.
Just minutes later, England international Marcus Rashford thought he’d broken the record for most consecutive goals at Old Trafford with 10, but for VAR to deem that Wout Weghorst was offside in the build up, and thus it was disallowed.
United began probing again, before the hosts looked to plead VAR’s favouring this time when Casemiro went down in the box. However, to no avail.
Against the run of play, just before half time, Reading was handed a gift when Tyrell Malacia was caught on the ball in his own penalty area. Junior Hoillet fired at goal, but for expert shot-stopper David de Gea to deny him.
Subsequently, it remained level going into half time.
Just after half time, Andy Carroll inflicted a big tackle on United midfielder Eriksen, who subsequently was seen leaving Old Trafford in crutches. The English striker avoided a booking.
Around 10 minutes into the 2nd half, United finally paved their way through Readings defence thanks to a delicious cut through pass from Antony, which was met and finished expertly by fellow Brazilian Casemiro.
Just a couple minutes later, the man of the moment Casemiro was laid off a considerable distance from goal, but a sublime curler saw his effort nestle in the bottom right-hand corner to double United’s lead. It was more Brazilian brilliance as Fred assisted Casemiro’s effort.
Casemiro has more goal involvements (7) than Kevin De Bruyne in their last 10 games (4).
Attacking-Defensive Midfielder. 💥 pic.twitter.com/IByZ8hDLwm
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) January 30, 2023
This marked Casemiro’s seventh goal contribution in his last 10 games. A remarkable figure for a defensive midfielder.
Carroll picked up a deserved yellow card in the 60th minute after bundling Malacia over.
Five minutes later, Carrol made yet another heavy tackle sliding in late on Casemiro. The referee pulled out a second yellow card and the Englishman was sent off.
In the 66th minute, United punished 10 men Reading as a short-corner saw Bruno Fernandes whip a cross into Fred, who executed a sublime flick to put United 3-0 up.
However, Reading managed a constellation goal in the 72nd minute when Thomas Ince’s corner was met by a free header from Amadou Selif Mbengue, who headed home to spoil United’s clean sheet. This was consequently met by a furious De Gea, attacking the post.
Subsequently, the game ended with United winning 3-1.
The Brazilians were the main standouts for United. Antony won the man of the match award due to his brilliant passing in the game. However, Casemiro stole the headlines thanks to his phenomenal brace. The first goal just epitomised the class of the Brazilian from the quality of the run, to the brilliant dinked finish.
In addition, Fred came on, making a positive impact assisting Casemiro’s first, and producing a moment of magic for the third, something expected of the excellence of Dimitar Berbatov not the United midfielder.
Ultimately the quality difference was apparent. Thus, despite Reading making it to half time at 0-0, the breakthrough was an inevitability.
The defensive strategy was effective for 45 minutes, and if Hoillet took Readings one big chance, it could have potentially changed the game.
However, with United’s dominance on the ball, and quality throughout the pitch with players like Rashford, Fernandes, Antony and Casemiro, Reading were unlikely to ever be able to get a result.
In previous seasons, Reading may had fancied causing an upset after the Old Trafford fortress had been dismantled. However, Ten Hag has built a new solid foundation at home for United. With 10 successive wins at home, teams no longer fancy making the trip to the ‘theatre of dreams’ anymore.
This alone is a statement of how far the Dutch manager has taken this side, since the complete collapse at the end of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign and Ralf Rangnick’s interim role.
United now play with a more consistent approach to games which the players can thrive off.
Despite the loss, Reading manager Paul Ince can take lots of positives from their defensive resilience for 45 minutes.
Ten Hag will be happy to get through another cup tie, but the potential loss of Christian Eriksen could be a major concern for future games. This could force United’s hand to enter the transfer market for a potential short term option to cover the Danish internationals absence.
Reading next host Watford on Saturday, hoping to bounce back with a victory to increase their playoff chances.
United face Nottingham Forest in the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi final on Wednesday, before hosting Crystal Palace in