Man United's Sanchez gets 6/10, Romero 8/10 for FA Cup win vs. Reading
MANCHESTER, England -- Manchester United booked their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup with a comfortable, if lacklustre, 2-0 win over Championship strugglers Reading.
United were not at their best, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side they were never seriously troubled against a team without a win since November as the Norwegian extended his winning start as caretaker manager to five games.
Juan Mata scored the first with a penalty after 22 minutes before Romelu Lukaku scored just before half-time to find the net for the third time in as many games. Reading had more possession and more shots but United scored at the right times and it never felt like Reading might cause a shock. There was even time for Solskjaer to send on 19-year-old Dutchman Tahith Chong for his debut.
United moved their signing section into the part of the stadium usually reserved for away fans in an effort to improve the atmosphere and it seemed to work. These games -- ones United are expected to win easily -- can sometimes be quiet but that wasn't the case here. Around 1,900 supporters kept going from the first whistle to the last to give a routine game an extra buzz. When the loudest fans are in that corner of Old Trafford it lifts the whole atmosphere and there is an argument to make the move permanent.
United were comfortable but never scintillating and Reading had the ball for large parts of the game. It was a chance for fringe players to make their case to play more often and Solskjaer will be disappointed more did not take their opportunity. Few of the regulars who watched from the stands will be worrying about their place for the trip to Tottenham on Sunday.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Solskjaer made nine changes from the 2-0 win over Newcastle on Wednesday. He admitted before the game it was a risk but it paid off and United are in the hat for the fourth-round draw. He also gave Chong his debut with a run out for the last half an hour that went down well with the fans who sang: "We've only got one Chong."
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating.)
GK Sergio Romero, 8 -- The goalkeeper made just his third start of the season, but played a key role in United reaching the fourth round. Did well to smother Danny Loader when the Reading striker went clean through in the first half and made a good save from Callum Harriott after the break.
DF Diogo Dalot, 7 -- Defended aggressively and got forward when he could. Did his job well and Reading had very little joy down United's right.
DF Ashley Young, 7 -- Playing at left-back, he had a fantastic run into the penalty area that created a good chance for Marouane Fellaini in the second half.
DF Matteo Darmian, 7 -- Playing in an unfamiliar role at centre-back but did well. Snuffed out a chance for Loader in the first half with a well-timed challenge.
DF Phil Jones, 7 -- Visibly frustrated at conceding so many chances but still managed to marshal a defence that kept a second clean sheet in a row.
MF Andreas Pereira, 6 -- Just his second start since the opening two games of the season. He was quiet in the first half but looked brighter when he was briefly moved further forward. Asked to play deeper again once Fellaini came on.
MF Scott McTominay, 6 -- His first start since the draw with Southampton in December. Shielded the back four and made a good block in his own penalty area from Andy Yiadom's effort.
MF Fred, 6 -- Pressed high and won the ball back to create chances for Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez but gave the ball away too often and didn't do enough to start against Spurs.
FW Juan Mata, 7 -- Won the penalty and had to wait an age for referee Stuart Attwell to pick through the mess with the VAR before being allowed to tuck it away for his fifth goal of the season.
FW Alexis Sanchez, 6 -- Had United's first chance with a shot that just dipped over the bar and set up Romelu Lukaku's goal with an inch-perfect pass. Went off early after picking up a hamstring injury.
FW Romelu Lukaku, 7 -- The Belgian looked off the pace before latching onto Sanchez's pass in first half stoppage time to round Reading goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola and score for the third game in a row.
MF Tahith Chong, 6 -- Positive debut for the Dutch teenager.
MF Marouane Fellaini, 6 -- Could have scored following a cut-back.
FW Marcus Rashford, 7-- Looked dangerous on the left.