Manchester United 3-1 Reading: Casemiro to double as Red Devils head to FA Cup fifth round
A magnificent double from Casemiro and a fantastic flick from Fred sealed United’s victory despite consolation from Amadou Mbengue.
Marcus Rashford saw a goal ruled out for offside in an opening period which saw United fall short with their 15 shots and nearly fall behind after Junior Hoilett stunned Tyrell Malacia just before the break.
But Antony’s excellent defensive pass allowed his compatriot Casemiro to get the better of goalkeeper Joe Lumley at the start of the second half.
The former Real Madrid midfielder followed that up with a sparkling 30-yard strike which was completed with a bold flick from Brazilian team-mate Fred.
Former Liverpool striker Carroll received his marching orders shortly before United’s third and traveling Reading fans were able to celebrate Mbengue’s goal as Paul Ince’s men finished in style.
The result means United’s clash at Old Trafford with rivals Leeds can be played on February 8 – one of eight fixtures they will face in a busy month.
Next month will surely end with a shot at Carabao Cup glory following Wednesday’s 3-0 semi-final first leg win over Nottingham Forest, making Ten Hag’s selection here all the more eye-catching.
Harry Maguire came on for Lisandro Martinez in the only change to City Ground’s win and United dominated possession throughout a one-sided first half.
Home debutant Wout Weghorst saw a smart shot blocked and Christian Eriksen bent a free-kick from 20 yards out narrowly.
Another free-kick opportunity soon followed and Lumley did well to parry in-form Rashford’s stinging strike, with Eriksen’s follow-up attempt thwarted.
Antony missed efforts either side of a timely block from Tom Holmes that kept Weghorst clear with a close-range strike around the corner.
Eriksen was denied by another big block from Holmes, Bruno Fernandes cowering and dragging across the face of goal as the onslaught continued.
United finally appeared to have opened the scoring in the 35th minute, only for VAR to intervene.
Rashford met Weghorst’s looping header in goal with a header effort that Lumley couldn’t prevent from crossing the line, but the targeted man had swerved offside in the build-up.
Casemiro saw the penalty appeals fall on deaf ears as United ended the half with 15 shots against Reading’s two, although complacency nearly allowed Hoilett to make his count.
Malacia was caught napping on a cross, with the Canadian standing in front of him to clear away a close-range shot that David De Gea hadn’t bothered before.
The stoppage-time opportunity was completely against the run of play and United finally added some teeth to their attack in the 54th minute.
Antony slid superbly through Casemiro, who kept his composure to deftly lift Lumley past the rocking Stretford End.
The 30-year-old pointed the finger at his compatriot during the celebrations in recognition of the assist – but there was no need to share the love four minutes later.
Fred had no idea Casemiro would meet his layoff with a superb first-time strike from 30 yards out that went past Lumley and tucked into the bottom corner.
It was a great run and Carroll’s dispatch for a second bookable offense for a late challenge on Casemiro in the 65th minute ended any faint hopes of a comeback.
United were playing without the shackles and substitute Fred drew inspiration from his Brazilian roots as he met Fernandes’s post-near cross with a fine shot a minute later.
Reading pulled one back in the 72nd minute when substitute Mbengue scored a free header from a corner and Ince’s side had other openings which they failed to exploit.
Alejandro Garnacho looked most likely to add shine to United but there were to be no more goals.
Additional PA Reports