Manchester United 3-1 Reading: Boys from Brazil inspire FA Cup progress
Manchester United had to be patient but eventually cruised to a deserved 3-1 FA Cup win over Reading on Saturday thanks in part to Casemiro's brilliant brace.
The Royals, managed by former United midfielder Paul Ince, frustrated the Red Devils in the first half at Old Trafford, but Erik ten Hag's side simply had too much quality in the end.
Marcus Rashford's disallowed goal in the 35th minute would have been a just reward for United, but a breakthrough was just a matter of time and came via Casemiro's lovely finish.
He then added a long-range second, before Fred's outrageous flick finished Reading off following Andy Carroll's dismissal for two bookings, with Amadou Mbengue's late header a mere consolation.
United were dominant right from the start, with Reading struggling to get out of their half.
Bruno Fernandes went close a few moments before Rashford seemingly ended the visitors' resistance, but his header was ruled out for offside against Wout Weghorst.
Reading then wasted the best chance of the half as Junior Hoilett robbed Tyrell Malacia in the box and forced David de Gea into a vital stop.
United capitalised on that let-off just after the break.
Antony's disguised pass found the run of Casemiro, whose impudent scoop left Joe Lumley well beaten.
Teed up by substitute Fred, Casemiro netted again four minutes later as his first-time 30-yard effort found the bottom-right corner via a slight deflection.
Carroll saw red after a couple of wild challenges, and a minute later Fred made it 3-0 with a sensational backheel from Fernandes' cross.
Mbengue pulled one back with a powerful header, though United's victory was never in doubt.
What does it mean? United continue fighting on all fronts
Even when frustrated by Reading's valiant defending, an upset never looked likely here simply because United were so lively going forward.
Beating a Championship side is not going to suddenly win over any remaining doubters of Ten Hag or his hugely improved United side, but their patience, persistence and overall threat are positives that should not be taken lightly.
They are now into the last 16 of the FA Cup, 90 minutes away from the EFL Cup final, and remain alive in the Premier League – arguably – and the Europa League. As far as beginnings to new eras, this is a decent start.
There were a lot of excellent performances from United players, but Antony deserves a special mention after coming in for a lot of criticism recently.
This was probably his best display for the club. He was involved throughout, with his four key passes – including that gorgeous ball for Casemiro's opener – a match high. Granted, none of his eight – at least double anyone else on the pitch – hit the target, but he was positive and direct. A promising step.
Carroll's moment of madness
After an anonymous first-half showing, Carroll looked eager to make his presence known after the break – he went about it in the wrong way, though.
He was extremely lucky to avoid a booking for a crude challenge on Christian Eriksen, yet he continued throw himself around and quickly earned his sending off.
Key Opta Facts
- Manchester United have progressed from ten of their 11 FA Cup ties against Reading, only failing in the third round in the 1926-27 season.
- Manchester United are unbeaten in their last 15 home games in the FA Cup (W13 D2) since a 2-1 defeat to Arsenal in 2015.
- Reading have lost eight of their last nine FA Cup matches against Premier League opponents, with the other a 3-1 home win against West Brom in February 2016.
- Reading’s Andy Carroll was shown his first red card since October 2017, for West Ham vs Burnley in the Premier League.
United face Nottingham Forest in the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final on Wednesday, but before then they will have an eye on Monday's draw for the fifth round of the FA Cup.