Mata, Lukaku strike as Solskjaer’s lacklustre United make hard work of Reading
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made it five wins from five as caretaker boss at Manchester United as they laboured to victory over Reading in the FA Cup third round.
Juan Mata’s penalty, awarded by VAR, gave United the lead midway through the first half before Romelu Lukaku’s neat finish doubled the lead before the break.
Reading, second bottom in the Championship and without a win in 11, battled well and troubled a flat-looking United at times and fashioned numerous chances that should have been put away.
But Solskjaer’s side closed out the match in a non-event of a second half to book their place in their fourth round and continue their momentum following the sacking of Jose Mourinho.
Alexis Sanchez had the first chance of the game, firing just over after 15 minutes following a slick counter from the home side. Sanchez and Lukaku led United’s attack as Solskjaer made nine changes from the 2-0 win at Newcastle and his side lacked a degree of sharpness at times.
They took the lead on 22 minutes when VAR ruled Mata had been fouled in the area by Omar Richards before Fred had struck the ball home, only to be ruled offside. After a lengthy delay as VAR was consulted, a penalty was awarded and Mata stepped up to put United 1-0 up.
Lukaku then had a shot saved before Danny Loader burst into the area into space but could not beat Sergio Romero. Lukaku met Sanchez’s fine through ball in first half stoppage time to round Anssi Jaakkola and put United in charge.
Solskjaer’s men continued to struggle after the break and Callum Harriott tested Romero before Sone Aluko went close for the visitors. Solskjaer’s men, meanwhile, barely managed a shot of note in the second half against a side who last beat them in 1927.
United’s exciting academy product Tahith Chong came on for his senior debut on the hour but Solskjaer and Sanchez suffered a setback ahead of next week’s trip to face Tottenham after the forward limped off four minutes later.