Wayne Rooney equalled Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record as Manchester United booked their place in the FA Cup fourth round with a convincing 4-0 win over Jaap Stam’s Reading at Old Trafford.
The captain moved alongside a fellow United legend in the club’s all-time scoring charts with his 249th goal and Anthony Martial doubled the lead with a calm finish as the Reds went 2-0 ahead inside the first 15 minutes.
Marcus Rashford stroked home and capitalised on an error by Ali Al-Habsi to add a late double which reflected United’s superiority in a dominant display.
The victory extended the Reds’ winning run to eight matches in all competitions but Jose Mourinho’s men won’t discover our next opponents in the competition until the draw is made on Monday evening.
It may seem a long time since United lifted the FA Cup for a record-equalling 12th time at Wembley last May but the first home game of 2017 saw the Reds begin the defence of the trophy, with the first challenge presenting the return of a familiar face in the opposing dug-out in Stam.
The Reds made a fast start with Rashford, starting as the main striker, firing an effort wide inside 32 seconds before Rooney latched onto a delightful Daley Blind pass and brought a fine low save from Royals keeper Al-Habsi.
It didn’t take the no.10 long to make an impact though, marking his return from a three-game injury absence with a historic moment in the seventh minute. The England skipper managed to react quickly to direct Juan Mata’s cross into the far corner for the record-equalling goal he has been waiting for – which was warmly applauded by Charlton himself and Sir Alex Ferguson in the directors’ box.
Reading – currently third in the Championship – struggled to get out of their own half as the hosts continued to dominate and Martial increased the lead on the quarter-hour mark. The Frenchman played a delightful one-two with Rooney on the edge of the box before stroking a low shot through the legs of Liam Moore and into the bottom corner for his sixth goal of the season.
There was a blow for United, however, when Marcos Rojo – one of only two survivors from the side which beat West Ham 2-0 on Monday – was forced off with an injury in the 19th minute and replaced by Phil Jones. It failed to disrupt the pattern of the game as the irresistible Reds bossed proceedings and created a series of opportunities.
Martial cut inside to unleash an effort which almost slipped through Al-Habsi’s grasp before Rooney and Mata couldn’t find the target with efforts from 20 yards. Rashford latched onto an incisive Chris Smalling pass to round Al-Habsi but could only find the side-netting from a tight angle.
The forward then couldn’t beat the Reading keeper in another one-on-one situation after a clever pass around the corner by Martial but, as referee Andre Marriner blew the half-time whistle, the Reds were already in a commanding position.
Possession: United 53% Reading 47%
Shots at goal: United 19 Reading 2
Shots on target: United 6 Reading 0
Corners: United 4 Reading 2
It almost got better for United in the early minutes of the second half when a curling Michael Carrick shot was parried by Al-Habsi, who then made a brilliant double save to deny Marouane Fellaini and Rooney from close range.
Rashford was then inches away from connecting with a dangerous low cross by Martial as the Reds continued to apply pressure with a measure of confidence. The visitors, who were FA Cup semi-finalists two years ago, barely threatened but Reds keeper Sergio Romero had to be brave to save at the feet of Garath McCleary.
Just when the game needed livening up, Rashford obliged with a calm and composed finish when played in through the middle by Carrick to add a fairer picture to a scoreline which began to reflect United’s dominance.
And, moments after Bastian Schweinsteiger and Tim Fosu-Mensah were introduced from the bench, Rashford helped himself to another goal to round off the win following a comical moment when Al-Habsi miskicked Moore’s backpass.
After comfortably securing a place in the next round, the Reds will now be looking to make progress in another cup competition on Tuesday night in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final against fellow top-flight side Hull City at Old Trafford (KO 20:00 GMT).
Possession: United 45% Reading 55%
Shots at goal: United 27 Reading 7
Shots on target: United 12 Reading 1
Corners: United 7 Reading 4
United: Romero; Young, Smalling, Rojo (Jones 19), Blind; Carrick (Fosu-Mensah 78), Fellaini; Mata (Schweinsteiger 78), Rooney (c), Martial, Rashford.
Subs not used: J. Pereira, Mkhitaryan, Pogba, Ibrahimovic.
Reading: Al-Habsi, Gunter (c), Blackett (Obita 46), L.Moore, Van den Berg, Evans (Swift 57), Williams, Kelly, Beerens, McCleary, Kermorgant (Samuel 77).
Subs not used: S.Moore, Cooper, Meite, Watson.