Two goals in the opening quarter of an hour set Manchester United on their way into the Fourth Round of the Emirates FA Cup this afternoon with Marcus Rashford adding some gloss to the scoreline with a brace late in the game.
Wayne Rooney struck first, stabbing Juan Mata's dinked ball into the box beyond a helpless Al Habsi. And the lively Anthony Martial added a second with a placed right-footed finish into the bottom corner. Ali Al Habsi produced some heroics to prevent Jose Mourinho's men adding more but he could do nothing to stop Rashford adding a third and then the pacy forward found a close range fourth following a mistake at the back.
Jaap Stam made two changes to the side that came from behind to stun Bristol City last Monday, bringing in George Evans and Liam Kelly to play against a strong Manchester United side. Chris Gunter captained the Royals in the absence of Paul McShane who missed out with his hand injury, while John Swift started on the bench at Old Trafford. Jose Mourinho meanwhile named Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford in his starting eleven.
The home side signalled their intentions with two chances in the opening couple of minutes, Marcus Rashford placing a shot just wide of the bottom right corner, before Rooney got in behind the back line and forced Al Habsi into a fine save low to his left.
And Jose Mourinho’s men had the opening goal with six minutes gone through skipper Wayne Rooney. Martial cut inside from the left and pulled the ball back for Juan Mata, whose dink into the penalty box was toed past Al Habsi by the lurking Rooney. It meant the 31-year-old moved level with Sir Bobby Charlton as Manchester United's all-time leading goalscorer.
Reading’s first attack of note came through a Liam Kelly burst down the left. Smalling came across to pass the ball back to Romero but Kermorgant closed the keeper’s clearance down, the ball flying out for a throw by the corner flag.
The hosts were very much on top and threatening a second, which came from a clever run and placed effort from Martial on the quarter hour mark, sliding the ball into the bottom right corner for 2-0.
Joey van den Berg brought the ball out from the back with 20 minutes gone and gave McCleary a first chance to stretch his legs down the left. He found the space to cross to the far post, where Beerens' first time volley almost fell for Liam Kelly on the edge of the six yard box.
Al Habsi safely gathered in a Martial effort on the break soon after, but a fleeting but good chance to pull one back passed Liam Moore by at the other end. A deep corner from the right was met by a well struck volley from Van den Berg and as it fizzed into the box, Moore stuck out a leg in hope of a touch which would have called upon Romero to make a reflex save. But he didn't get the touch and it fizzed behind for a goal kick.
United could have made it 3-0 soon after when Rashford sprung the offside trap, rounded Al Habsi but from a narrow angle rippled only the side netting. At the other end, Reading continued to try to create and a sublime ball from Evans found Kelly racing down the right. His low cross was intercepted by Romero at his near post.
Al Habsi was quick off his line to narrow the angle and save from Rashford again with ten minutes of the first half remaining. Then the wall did it's job against Mata's curling set piece.
A sliding block from Evans denied Mata at half-time drew closer, and the Spaniard arced a left-footed effort harmlessly over the bar from the edge of the box as the home side broke dangerously once more.
Everything was going Manchester United's way and a Liam Kelly tackle spiralled kindly into the path of Rashford down the right, whose low cross was met by Martial but arrowed over at the near post under pressure from Gunter.
Half-time: Manchester United 2-0 Reading
Jordan Obita came on at half-time for the Royals but the opening opportunity of the second half fell United's way, Jones winning the ball in midfield and finding Rashford racing down the right side. He crossed into the box and a stretching Rooney couldn't quite connect.
Al Habsi produced a smart save to push Michael Carrick's right-footed effort wide of his bottom right corner. Then Ashley Young was booked for a nasty looking challenge on Obita.
The Royals stopper was in action again ten minutes in when he smothered a Fellaini shot and then deflected Rooney's follow up with an outstretched leg to keep the scoreline at 2-0.
Romero had to race out of his area to prevent a long ball over the top finding Beerens, then a brilliant toe poke from Van den Berg took Rooney's low cross away from the counter attacking Rashford in the middle to prevent a certain goal.
Romero had to be alert once more, sliding in to stop McCleary creating something in the United box and conceding a corner in the process.
Reading's sights of goal were few and far between, but McCleary's burst down the right ended with a pass into the feet of Kermorgant who took aim but saw his shot charged down before Romero could be troubled.
With 15 minutes left, United did make it 3-0. Rashford capitalised on a ball forward that Moore failed to cut out, racing through one on one and finishing well past Al Habsi this time.
Swift took aim from range soon after, but his shot was dragged harmlessly wide of the left upright. And as Stam brought on Dominic Samuel, Mourinho introduced Bastian Schweinsteiger and Tim Fosu-Mensah.
And moments after the restart a pass back to Al Habsi saw Rashford pounce on a mistake from our Omani and smash home his second of the afternoon from yards out.
Reading kept looking for a consolation that would have given the travelling 5,000 something to cheer and Gunter was blocked off by Blind as he overlapped for McCleary. Kelly delivered a cross that beat a stretching Romero but Moore at the far post could only place a difficult downward header wide.
And in two minutes of injury time, Obita stung Romero's palms with an effort from distance. But the FA Cup adventure was over the the Royals and the reigning cup holders were well worthy of their win and a place in the Fourth Round.
Full-time: Manchester United 4-0 Reading
Manchester United: Romero, Rojo (Jones 19), Smalling, Blind, Young, Carrick (Fosu-Mensah 78), Fellaini, Rooney (c), Martial, Mata (Schweinsteiger 78), Rashford.
Subs: Pereira, Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Ibrahimovic.
Goals: Rooney (7), Martial (15), Rashford (75, 79)
Reading: Al Habsi, Gunter (c), Blackett (Obita HT), L.Moore, Van den Berg, Evans (Swift 58), Kelly, Williams, McCleary, Beerens, Kermorgant (Samuel 77).
Subs: S.Moore, Watson, Cooper, Meite.