Young Royals beaten by Red DevilsReading Under-21s were edged out at Adams Park by an in-form Manchester United side, with Martin Kuhl's men unable to make a number of chances count in a late rally.
United striker Will Keane scored all three for United on his 23rd birthday, before Tariqe Fosu pulled one back for the Royals late-on as they looked for a way back into the game.
A few familiar faces returned to the U21s starting line-up, with a number of players returning from loan spells for the Royals, including Tariqe Fosu and Aaron Kuhl. Alex Fernandez also started for Reading with the Spaniard adding some experience to the midfield.
Jask Stacey had the opening chance of the game after 11 minutes as the Royals started the stronger. Stacey was played through on goal but his finish was well blocked by the Manchester United defence, with the winger seeing the ball run out tamely for a corner to the hosts.
Despite a strong start from the Royals, it was Manchester United who were presented with the chance to open the scoring, when Dominic Hyam bought down Will Keane in the box as he looked to shoot. The United striker stepped up to take the penalty kick and finished powerfully past Stuart Moore in the Reading goal.
The Royals looked to respond quickly when Rowan Liburd had his drive at goal saved by Joel Pereira . Good work down the left flank by the Royals front man saw him cut onto his stronger right foot but his effort was deftly tipped around the post.
In a game that was increasingly end-to-end Manchester United doubled their lead. Devonte Redmond made a lightening run through the midfield driving his shot goalwards taking a wicked deflection off his team mate Keane, with the ball bouncing agonisingly into the bottom corner of Moore’s goal.
United nearly made it three after another good run from Redmond, his through ball found Keane who tried to beat Moore but the Royals keeper pulled off a superb save to keep the score at 2-0.
On the 41st minute a Tariqe Fosu free kick forced a good stop from Periera in Manchester United goal, with a low dipping effort bound for the bottom corner before the keeper got a glove to it.
Half-time: Reading U21 0 Manchester United U21 2
The second half got under way in the much the same vein, with the Royals pushing for an equaliser and United looking to hit the hosts on the counter-attack.
On the hour mark though, Will Keane scored his and United’s third of the night. A tricky run from Harrop saw the Manchester United man fouled in the Reading box. Keane stepped up to take his second penalty of the evening and finished it coolly, putting the visitors into a commanding three goal lead.
After winning the penalty Harrop started to cause the Royals’ defence real problems, forcing a couple of high calibre saves out of Moore. The Reading stopper did well to keep the score at 3-0, as the Red Devils were in the ascendancy.
Reading had a chance of their own on the 75th minute when Harry Cardwell was played through. A skilful run through the midfield by Fosu opened up the United defence sliding in a clever ball to Cardwell, who could only shoot wide of Pereira’s goal.
With five minutes to play the Royals pulled one back through Fosu who had looked the Royals' biggest threat all evening. A quick and precise through ball from Alex Fernandez in midfield, found Cardwell on the edge of the opposition box. His quick ball around the corner put Fosu through on goal, with the winger sliding his finish under the onrushing keeper to give the Royals hope of a late comeback.
This was not to be however, in the closing moments Reading tried to put pressure on the visitors, but the Royals could not find a way past a resilient Manchester United defence. Despite a late effort from Aaron Kuhl, the home side slipped to a 3-1 defeat at Adams Park.
Full-time: Reading 1 Manchester United 3
Reading U21: Moore, Long, Griffin, Fernandez, Hyam, Osho, Stacey, Kuhl (c), Liburd (Cardwell), Kelly (Novakovich), Fosu.
Unused subs: Owusu, Ward, Shaughnessy.
Manchester United U21: Pereira, Varela, William, Love, Riley, Mensah, Weir (c) (Warren), Redmond, Keane, Harrop, Willock.
Unused subs: Rathbone, O’Hara , Gribbin, Mitchell.