Reading’s Under-23s matched their Manchester United counterparts in most respects as they met under the Madejski Stadium floodlights – but the Red Devils’ clinical finishing ensured they left as 4-1 winners on the night.
The Royals went into the break level as Adam Liddle equalised in stoppage time, following an opener by Arnau Martínez, but quick-fire goals by Aliou Traore and Tahith Chong midway through the second half and a 90th-minute strike by sub Dillon Hoogerwerf sealed a seventh straight league win for the Red Devils.
Reading could have taken an early lead, but Josh Barrett was wayward as he struck an early effort as he received on the far side. Soon after, Michael Olise was also off target as he tried to curl one at goal.
The Royals kept United quiet for much of the half, but were picked off when a slightly loose touch allowed the visitors to grab possession on the right flank and play inside for Martínez to slide beyond Jokull Andresson.
In the third added minute of first-half stoppage-time, Reading were level. A deep free-kick from Barrett found the head of Ethan Coleman – who took a nasty whack for the cause – and fell on the far side for Liddle to tuck in.
United came close to getting ahead again immediately after the break as Traore curled with power as he cut in off the left – Andresson beaten, but the crossbar not. Chong followed in but couldn’t generate power from a tight angle, and a block came in.
And at the other end, the woodwork was also left shuddering as Ryan East cracked a fierce left-footed drive from the edge of the area which had goalkeeper Matej Kovar beaten, but struck the meat of the post.
Olise and East in turn couldn’t quite pop their shots off and Barrett was flagged offside when released through on goal by Liddle – even though he was still in the Reading half when the ball was played.
And so United picked off Reading against the run of play. Chong, who had been kept quiet throughout, managed to drive to the right byline and cut back for Traore who lashed with power, tucked inside the near post from close range.
Soon after, Chong picked off a pass from the goalkeeper – it was slightly underhit for Coleman, but Chong was ruthless as he strode into the area and hit a dipper inside the far post.
The game became stretched as Reading looked to get back into the game – United exploited the exposed back-line when they broke in numbers and Hoogerwerf slotted in from the edge of the area.
All in all, a lop-sided scoreline after a decent display from the Royals – the Red Devils clinical with their finishing as they look to go top of the table.
Full-time: Reading U23 1-4 Manchester United U23
Reading U23: Andresson, Nditi, Odimayo, Burley, Elva-Fountaine (Nevers 79), Nolan (Azeez 79), East, Coleman, Barrett, Olise, Liddle.
Unused subs: Boyce-Clarke, Caetano, Pendlebury.
Manchester United U23: Kovar, Taylor (Fish 82), Bernard, Mengi, Laird, Helm (Mejbri 75), Martínez, Galbraith, Chong, Traore, Ramazani (Hoogerwerf HT).
Unused subs: Carney, McCann.