Casemiro was the unlikely scorer of a brace as Manchester United safely secured their place in the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 3-1 win over Reading.
Erik ten Hag named a strong side but had to wait until the second-half for the breakthrough when Casemiro scored twice in four minutes.
Substitute Fred added a third a minute after Reading had former Liverpool striker Andy Carroll sent off for a second bookable offence. The Championship side, managed by ex-United midfielder Paul Ince, got one back through Amadou Mbengue.
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Despite creating a host of opportunities, United couldn’t find a way through a deep and resilient Reading defence in the opening half. Marcus Rashford’s well-struck free-kick called goalkeeper Joe Lumley into action while home debutant Wout Weghorst and Antony also went close.
The hosts had the ball in the back of the net when Rashford nodded home at the far post but the goal was disallowed following a VAR review, with the England international denied a new club record of scoring in 10 consecutive home games.
Reading almost took a shock lead on the stroke of half-time after Tyrell Malacia made a mistake in his own penalty area but was bailed out by team-mate David De Gea who saved Junior Hoilett’s effort.
But nine minutes after the break, United finally broke the deadlock, Casemiro latching onto compatriot Antony’s reverse pass and lifting it over the onrushing Lumley. The former Real Madrid player then added a second with a stunner from 25 yards.
Reading’s night went from bad to worse when Carroll was shown two yellow cards in five minutes before Fred added a third with a clever flick from Bruno Fernandes’ cross.
The visitors grabbed a consolation when Mbengue was left unmarked to head home from a corner delivery, but it was a mere blot on United’s copybook.
Talking point – The brilliance of the boys from Brazil
United march on in the FA Cup with their 11th consecutive home victory in all competitions, just three days after all but sealing their place in the final of the EFL Cup.
Credit to Ten Hag – who despite facing a gruelling schedule of nine games in the month of February as his charges continue to fight on all fronts – named a strong side, making just one change with Harry Maguire taking the armband as Lisandro Martinez dropped to the bench.
And he was rewarded with another solid display, with his boys from Brazil shining in particular. Casemiro isn’t known for his goalscoring ability but he found his shooting boots tonight, and Fred made an impressive cameo, grabbing an assist and registering on the scoresheet himself. Having set up the opener, the only thing missing from Antony’s game was a goal as he won the Player of the Match award.
Player of the match – Antony (Manchester United)
The 22-year-old made several key passes in what was a superb attacking display. He was at the heart of everything positive United had to offer.
Man Utd: De Gea 7, Wan-Bissaka 7, Maguire 6, Lindelof 6, Malacia 6, Casemiro 8, Eriksen 7, Antony 8*, Fernandes 7, Rashford 6, Weghorst 6.. subs: Elanga 5, Pellistri 5, Garnacho 5, Mainoo 5.
Reading: Lumley 5, Hoilett 5, Yiadom 5, Holmes 6, McIntyre 6, Baba 5, Hendrick 5, Loum 5, Ince 5, Joao 5, Carroll 3.. subs: Fornah 5, Bouzanis 5, Mbengue 6, Long 5, Craig 5.
36’ – VAR RULES OUT RASHFORD’S GOAL! Rashford believes he has a new club record – scoring for the 10th consecutive home game – after meeting Weghorst’s header and nodding past Lumley. But VAR has ruled it out after a lengthy review – Weghorst is deemed to be offside.
45’+1 – READING SHOULD SCORE! For reasons unknown, Malacia tries to chest the ball down inside his own box but is challenged by Hoilett, who simply must score from point-blank range. But he aims his shot straight at De Gea and the United goalkeeper makes the save. A let off for the hosts!
54’ – GOAL! MANCHESTER UNITED 1-0 READING (CASEMIRO): United finally have the breakthrough! The boys from Brazil link up to deadly effect, Antony playing a lovely reverse pass to feed the run of Casemiro and he nonchalantly lifts it over the onrushing Lumley.
58’ – GOAL! MANCHESTER UNITED 2-0 READING (CASEMIRO): Oh wow, what a stunning goal from Casemiro to double United’s lead! Full of confidence, the midfielder tries his luck from a first-time shot from 25 yards that nestles in the bottom corner. Did it take a nick off a Reading defender? He won’t care one bit!
65’ – RED CARD! Oh boy, Andy Carroll, formerly of Liverpool, has been sent off for Reading for a second bookable offence after sliding into Casemiro needlessly. It’s turning into the perfect night for the hosts.
66’ – GOAL! MANCHESTER UNITED 3-0 READING (FRED): Fernandes picks out the run of Fred at the near post and he finishes it with a lovely little flick. United are running away with this now.
72’ – GOAL! MANCHESTER UNITED 3-1 READING (AMADOU MBENGUE): Substitute Mbengue gets one back for Reading! He’s left all alone, it’s a free header from a corner and he makes no mistake with a powerful header.
Manchester United have progressed from 10 of their 11 FA Cup ties against Reading, only failing in the third round in the 1926-27 season.
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