Manchester United 3 Reading 1
Casemiro scored a magnificent brace before Fred flicked home audaciously as Manchester United’s Brazilian stars sparkled in Saturday evening’s FA Cup win over Reading.
Erik ten Hag surprisingly only made one alteration for a seemingly straightforward fourth-round assignment that his side initially made hard work of at Old Trafford.
But second-half samba magic in the Manchester rain sealed United a 3-1 victory on a night when Amadou Mbengue grabbed Reading a consolation after Andy Carroll was sent off.
Marcus Rashford saw a goal ruled out for offside in an opening period that saw United fail with their 15 shots and nearly go behind in after Junior Hoilett caught Tyrell Malacia out just before the break.
But Antony’s excellent defence-splitting pass put compatriot Casemiro through to beautifully lift over goalkeeper Joe Lumley early in the second half.
The former Real Madrid midfielder followed that with a fizzing 30-yard strike that was added to by a daring flick by Brazil team-mate Fred.
Ex-Liverpool striker Carroll received his marching orders shortly before United’s third and Reading’s travelling fans were able to celebrate Mbengue’s goal as Paul Ince’s men ended brightly.
The result means United’s Old Trafford clash with rivals Leeds can be played on February 8th – one of eight fixtures they face in a jam-packed month.
Next month will surely end with a shot at Carabao Cup glory after Wednesday’s 3-0 semi-final first-leg win against Nottingham Forest, making Ten Hag’s selection here all the more eye catching.
Harry Maguire replaced Lisandro Martinez in the only alteration from the City Ground win and United dominated possession throughout a one-sided first half.
Home debutant Wout Weghorst saw a smart flick blocked and Christian Eriksen bent a 20-yard free-kick narrowly wide.
Another set-piece 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 Tom Holmes block that prevented Weghorst getting away a close-range strike on the turn.
Eriksen was denied by another important Holmes block, with Bruno Fernandes curling over 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 the VAR to intervene.
Rashford met Weghorst’s looping header back across goal with a headed effort that Lumley could not prevent crossing the line, but the target man had strayed offside in the build-up.
Casemiro saw penalty appeals fall on deaf ears as United ended the half with 15 shots to Reading’s two, although complacency so nearly allowed Hoilett to make his count.
Malacia was caught napping at a cross, with the Canadian nipping ahead of him to get away a close-range shot that previously untroubled David De Gea denied.
The stoppage-time opportunity was completely against the run of play and United finally added some bite to their attack in the 54th minute.
Antony superbly slipped through Casemiro, who kept his cool to expertly lift over Lumley in front of the rocking Stretford End.
The 30-year-old pointed 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 lay-off with a stunning first-time strike from 30 yards that skipped past Lumley and nestled in the bottom corner.
It was a fine drive and Carroll’s sending off for a second bookable offence for a late challenge on Casemiro in the 65th minute ended any faint hopes of a comeback.
United were playing with the shackles off and substitute Fred took inspiration from his Brazilian roots when meeting Fernandes’s near-post cross with a fine flick a minute later.
Reading pulled one back in the 72nd minute as substitute Mbengue scored a free header from a corner and Ince’s team had further openings that they failed to capitalise on.
Alejandro Garnacho looked most likely to add gloss for United but there was to be no more goals.