Date: 9th January 2017 at 1:46pm
Written by:

Magic of the cup? No chance. Reading were well and truly outclassed by Manchester United, as they went down 4-0 at Old Trafford in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Jaap Stam made just two changes from the side that won at Bristol City last week, as Liam Kelly and George Evans came into the side ahead of the injured Paul McShane and John Swift. It was a strong line-up from Reading, but also that of United, who had the likes of Rooney, Mata, Martial and Rashford starting. United showed this class in the opening stages and could have been ahead in the opening minutes.

Reading were playing a high line but was penetrated early, as Rooney was set free in the area, but Al-Habsi parried his left-footed effort. Rashford came close just a minute later as he drove at a retreating Royals defence, but his finessed effort just went wide of Al-Habsi`s post. Going by the opening minutes, we were in for a long afternoon in Manchester, and the goal did eventually come.

Martial was having a field day against Gunter, who seemed content on backing off the French international – he fed Mata on the left channel who dinked a ball into Rooney, who made enough contact with the ball to make it end up in the net. It was a historic moment for the United skipper, as he equalled Sir Bobby Charlton`s record of 249 goals for United, but he wasn`t to beat the record in this game.

A second goal came on fifteen minutes, as Martial was allowed the freedom of Manchester to drift into the area unchallenged and stroke home a fine finish, as the 5,000+ strong travelling Royals faithful wondered what they got themselves into. Our first chance came as United failed to clear a Beerens corner and van den Berg struck the ball across goal and Moore was close to getting a toe on it.

Marcus Rashford had a rare birth up front as striker for United, but won`t have impressed Jose Mourinho with his finishing. The youngster avoided the offside trap, managed to round Al-Habsi, but from the angle only managed to hit the side netting. A superb ball from Evans set Kelly away on a rare attack down the right, he ventured into the area but his low cross was cut out by Romero at the front post.

Rashford again had another chance, this one a carbon copy of the first, but Al-Habsi this time was on and to narrow the angle for the England international and blocked his effort well with his body. It was not an easy half for Reading, who looked very passive to a dominant United side, who could have been four or five goals up at half time. Stam needed a miracle to get his side back into it.

It was a much improved second-half showing from Reading, despite United having the best of the early chances. Rashford broke away down the left as Jones intercepted a ball in midfield, but his low, fizzing cross couldn`t reach the onrushing Rooney though. Michael Carrick was superb in the United midfield and tried his luck from twenty yards, but Al-Habsi managed to parry his effort wide of goal.

Reading settled much better after this rocky spell, keeping and moving the ball well without really hurting United with any goalbound efforts. The introduction of John Swift did give us more drive in midfield, but United were stubborn in our final third, as you would expect of a Mourinho team. Just when it seemed the Reds were content to sit on their two-goal cushion, they struck again with fifteen remaining.

Carrick picked up the ball in midfield and played a sublime pass through to Rashford, which evaded the outstretched leg of Liam Moore – the striker forgot his demons of the first half and finished precisely past Al-Habsi. Undeserved based on the control we had in the second half, but you can`t argue United had the ability to turn it on when they wanted. The fourth and final goal was just a calamity.

Liam Moore played a back pass to Al-Habsi and in comical fashion, the Omani keeper completely missed his kick, and Rashford couldn`t miss for his second of the game. Replays show it touched Al-Habsi`s right foot as he swung with his left, making it more painfully funnier – not for Ali obviously. Reading tried their best to give the travelling fans something to shout about, as they pushed for a goal.

Jordan Obita registered our only shot on target in injury time, as he took aim from twenty yards, but his firm effort was dealt with comfortably by Romero. It ended up being a thrashing, despite settling into the second half more so than the first. We said before it was a no pressure game and that still stands – it`s a loss, a heavy one, but nothing to be ashamed about, as we have more important matters now.

United – 4-2-3-1: Romero; Young, Smalling, Rojo, Blind; Carrick, Herrera; Mata, Rooney, Martial; Rashford.
Subs: Pereira, Jones, Fosu-Mensah, Schweinsteiger, Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Ibrahimovic

Reading – 4-3-3: Al-Habsi; Gunter, Moore, Van den Berg, Blackett; Evans, Kelly, Williams; McCleary, Kermorgant, Beerens.
Subs: Moore, Cooper, Watson, Obita, Swift, Meite, Samuel.