Manchester United 3-1 Reading: Casemiro’s double and Fred strike help Man Utd into FA Cup fifth round
A sublime Casemiro double formed part of a large Brazilian influence that helped steer Manchester United into the fifth round of the FA Cup as they beat Reading 3-1 at Old Trafford.
Erik ten Hag’s side were dominant throughout as their recent spell of good form continued, although they were unable to find a way past a committed Royals defence – the visitors managed by former United midfielder Paul Ince – in the first half.
As it turned out, the game needed a sprinkle of Brazilian magic as Casemiro, Antony and Fred helped guide Man Utd through. They also recorded an 11th successive home win in all competitions.
Midfielder Casemiro scored twice shortly after the break. Antony picked out his team-mate with a world-class pass for the opener (54) before a Fred assist saw the former Real Madrid man lash home the second three minutes later.
Fred (66) then added his own name to the scoresheet with a delightful flicked finish at the near post. It came a minute after former Liverpool striker Andy Carroll (65) was sent off for a second bookable offence, having made a late, clumsy challenge on Casemiro.
Perhaps the only mark on Man Utd’s card was Reading’s reply as Amadou Salif Mbengue (72) was allowed a free header, but the hosts never looked like letting their lead slip.
United now join the likes of Manchester City, Tottenham and Leeds in the fifth round, with the draw being made on Monday evening.
How Man Utd saw off Reading
Man Utd began well against their Championship opponents and had three openings inside 15 minutes. January signing Wout Weghorst saw his neat flick blocked, before Christian Eriksen sent a free-kick just wide. Then, Marcus Rashford saw his won set-piece well saved by Joe Lumley.
Antony looked bright in the first half too, but could not send any of his curling efforts on target. The winger set up Bruno Fernandes, but he also curled an effort just past the post. The two linked up again just after the half-hour, but Fernandes dragged a shot well wide.
- Man Utd made one change from their midweek win against Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg. Harry Maguire returned to action, coming into the side for Lisandro Martinez.
- Reading made two changes after losing 4-0 to Stoke last Saturday. Andy Carroll and Lucas Joao came in for Tyrese Fornah and Yakou Meite up front.
Rashford thought he had fired United ahead soon after, scrambling the ball over the line from a tight angle, but VAR intervened to rule it out for offside. Weghorst was the culprit, off by a knee as he nodded a looping ball down for Rashford’s finish.
Reading almost went into the break 1-0 ahead. Tyrell Malacia was caught dawdling on the ball by Royals skipper Junior Hoilett, who hurried the young full-back into making a pass. However, Hoilett’s scuffed shot was saved by David de Gea.
Man Utd finally made the breakthrough shortly after the break with a quickfire Casemiro double. The first saw him set up superbly by Antony, with the winger cutting past a defender before slotting the ball down the channel for his team-mate. It was then a delightful dinked finish from the midfielder, taken with real skill.
Three minutes later, and another moment of quality from Casemiro. Newly-introduced substitute Fred laid the ball off for his fellow Brazilian, who had all the time to prepare his shot before sending a thunderbolt past Lumley. It took a deflection on the way through which may have wrong-footed the goalkeeper, but it was another fine goal nonetheless.
Reading’s evening went from bad to worse with Carroll’s red card in between the second and third goals. Having already been booked earlier in the game, the frontman flew into a rash challenge on Casemiro in midfield – very much a striker’s challenge – before being shown a second yellow card.
And it did not take long for United to add a third. Fernandes found Fred at the near post, before the midfielder flicked home past Lumley as the hosts threatened to run riot at Old Trafford.
Reading were handed a lifeline when they pulled a goal back just after the 70-minute mark. It was a goal that will have annoyed Ten Hag with Mbengue allowed through the defence to nod home with a free header.
However, that was the only real scare Reading were able to muster as Man Utd cruised into the last 16.
Man Utd vs Leeds confirmed for February 8
Man Utd’s postponed Premier League game against Leeds will now take place on February 8 at Old Trafford after both teams progressed to the FA Cup fifth round.
Player of the match – Antony
There has been some criticism of the winger recently, but this was arguably his standout performance for United so far. He had a huge influence on the game, making intelligent runs and passes, as well as going close himself on occasions.
Ten Hag: We are here for trophies, we are building
Man Utd manager Erik ten Hag to ITV Sport:
“The first 60 minutes was really good. We totally dominated. We were composed with good moments. In the first half we had some good opportunities. I don’t know why the [Marcus Rashford] goal was disallowed.
“We are here for trophies but we have a long way to go. We’re building.”
On Casemiro: “We know he’s a great player. In Madrid’s midfield with Kroos and Modric it was great. I think he’s capable, you see offensively he enjoys it. What I like is dynamic football with variations, many position switches.”
On Antony: “I think he’s growing. We want him to be more dynamic, variable and direct. Today was a lovely pass for the first goal.
“We are happy with his improvement in this moment. There’s big potential in him and he has to develop it every day.”
Praise for Casemiro: A huge signing for Man Utd
Sky Sports’ Roy Keane on ITV Sport:
“He’s been a huge signing. Over the last few years for Man Utd, particularly in the middle of the park, they’ve lacked a quality player with a big personality, a guy with a bit of presence.
“He’s a top-quality player. We see it week, in week out. He affects games.
“Before he came there was this perception he’s a sitting midfielder because of working with different players at Real Madrid, players who are more attack-minded, but we’re now seeing over the last few months he’s got so much quality going forward in terms of the final pass and he’s getting goals, as well as being very, very good defensively.
“A huge signing for Man Utd and a big personality, which Man Utd needed.”
Harry Maguire speaking to ITV Sport:
“He’s been what he has been brought in to do, he is a phenomenal player and he has been throughout his career.
“He’s improved the team, the morale and it is great to have him.”
Maguire: I have to take my chances when they come
Man Utd captain Harry Maguire speaking to ITV:
“I’ve looked after myself, I think it has been two-and-a-half weeks since my last start. I have been working hard in training.
“The lads have been playing well, so when I get the opportunity I need to take it and make sure we win.
“It was nice to be out there and help the lads, and I am ready when the chance comes.
“I am 29-years-old and I have not been in this position in my career. It’s a position I don’t want to get used to.
“We know at this club we need competition for places, we have some top centre-backs at this club. I think we are all going to be needed from now until the end of the season.”
Ince: Ref couldn’t wait to get his card out for Carroll
Reading manager Paul Ince to ITV Sport:
“You’ve got to have a plan. You know when you come to Old Trafford you need to ride your luck. You’ve got to ride your luck to get anything from this game. To go in at 0-0 [at half-time] gave us a chance. But we gave them a goal, poor marking to Casemiro and it’s a wonderful goal.
“It’s been a long time to come back here, but it wasn’t about the reaction [from the Man Utd fans], it’s about our fans who travelled here. I hope our fans are proud of that.”
On Andy Carroll’s red card: “If you look at the first one, it wasn’t actually a foul. The linesman hasn’t flagged, the players are walking away and the ref can’t wait to get his card out.
“Once you’ve been booked you can’t make those challenges, but the ref can’t wait to get his card out. It’s poor.”
Manchester United‘s next game is their Carabao Cup semi-final, second leg at home to Nottingham Forest on Wednesday, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 8pm.
Wednesday 1st February 7:30pm
Kick off 8:00pm
Erik ten Hag’s side then host Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Saturday; kick-off 3pm.
Reading return to Championship action on Saturday at home to Watford – kick-off 3pm – before travelling to Sunderland on Saturday February 11; kick-off 3pm.
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