Manchester United 3 Reading 1
Casemiro (54′, 58′), Fred (66′) – Carroll (Dismissed 65′), Mbengue (72’minutes)
[Highlights, Post-Match reaction below]
On a night when Erik ten Hag picked a stronger-than-expected side, it was Casemiro and Fred that put Reading to the sword. Always dominant, with almost eighty per cent possession, United took fifty-four minutes to break the deadlock in a game where Reading were content to get men behind the ball and hope for something from a set piece. A second-half sending-off for Andy Carroll meant they were reduced to ten men behind the ball. In recent years games like this caused United to stumble, but ten Hag’s side always looked like winning even if it took longer than expected.
Rashford was denied a record-breaking tenth consecutive Old Trafford goal in the first half by a questionable VAR offside decision. Then Casemiro was denied a penalty. Antony curled a few wide. Eriksen and Weghorst had chances too that tamely found the keeper. It seemed for all United’s chances nothing would go in. As halftime approached, they began to run out of ideas, grew frustrated and began to be more careless in possession. That carelessness was almost punished as Malacia was caught in possession, but DeGea saved his blushes, and they went all square for halftime.
If Paul Ince’s halftime message to his players was to be more physical, then Andy Carroll heard him loud and clear. About ten minutes in, he miscontrolled the ball and attempted to win it back from Eriksen with a wild scissor kick. He was fortunate to avoid a booking. Shortly afterwards United scored their first. Eriksen swept a diagonal ball out to Antony on the right. Casemiro broke from midfield and Antony, faced with three defenders, slipped a through ball in for Casemiro to dink over the Reading keeper from close in. Moments later he would have a second. Antony switched to Fernandes on the left who squared it to Fred to tee up Casemiro. His right-foot curled shot took a slight deflection, but you couldn’t have told from his celebration.
Reading were finished, but Andy Carroll would make it worse. Already booked for a foul on Malacia, he made a pointless and late sliding foul on Casemiro for the red. He was lucky to make it sixty-five minutes at all. He was barely off the field before United scored their third. United took a short corner on the right. Fernandes whipped in a low cross, and Fred flicked in off his heel.
Reading got a consolation goal from a corner, but the game was long over as a contest by then. Manchester United’s Boys from Brazil had sent Reading packing.
Manchester United: De Gea; Malacia, Lindelof, Maguire(C), Wan-Bissaka, Casemiro, Eriksen, Fernandes; Rashford, Weghorst, Antony. Subs: Heaton, Martinez, Varane, Williams, Fred, Mainoo, Pellistri, Elanga, Garnacho
Reading: Lumley, Hoilett, Baba, Yiadom (C), McIntyre, Holmes, Hendrick, Loum, Ince, Joao, Carroll. Subs: Bouzanis, Guinness-Walker, Mbengue, Dann, Craig, Fornah, Azeez, Long, Meite