Red Devils storm into round four

The Football League Paper - - FA CUP THIRD ROUND - By Chris Dunlavy

JAAP STAM en­dured a night­mar­ish re­turn to Old Traf­ford as Read­ing were dis­man­tled by a Wayne Rooney mas­ter­class.

Stam, 44, spent three years at United, winning three Premier League ti­tles, a Cham­pi­ons League tro­phy and hero sta­tus on the Stret­ford End.

But the Dutch­man’s at­tempt to out­play his former em­ploy­ers proved a ma­jor mis­judg­ment as Jose Mour­inho’s men ran amok, rack­ing up an in­cred­i­ble 27 shots on goal.

Eng­land skip­per Rooney turned in a vin­tage dis­play, scor­ing to equal the watch­ing Sir Bobby Charl­ton’s club record of 249 goals be­fore tee­ing up a sec­ond for An­thony Mar­tial.

A brace from Mar­cus Rash­ford – the sec­ond fol­low­ing a com­i­cal er­ror from Roy­als keeper Ali Al-Habsi – then gave the score­line a lus­tre United’s per­for­mance de­served.

“Against a team like this, you have noth­ing to lose,” said Stam, whose easy-on-the-eye side lie third in the Cham­pi­onship ta­ble. “So why not give it a go? Why not play your own game, try to cre­ate chances and score goals?

“You can say, ‘Ok, were the tac­tics wrong?’ But you see many times a team sit in for 90 min­utes and lose by a num­ber of goals. We have a phi­los­o­phy, we be­lieve in

what we do, even against a side like this. For the fans, for every­body, it makes it a much nicer game.

“Of course, cer­tain de­tails can be bet­ter. When you play a team like United, you need to be sharp, you need to be ag­gres­sive, right from the start of the game.

“If you give them space and time on the ball, like we did in the first 15 min­utes, they will make it very hard for you. We must learn from that.”

He was, though, far hap­pier with his rap­tur­ous re­cep­tion. “This club was a big part of my de­vel­op­ment, as a player and a per­son,” added Stam. “To hear that is al­ways very nice.”

As learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences go, this was like a crash course in fire-eat­ing. So dom­i­nant were United that Read­ing were lucky to es­cape suf­fer­ing only mild hu­mil­i­a­tion.

Out­paced, out­fought, out­ma­neu­vered – the ta­ble may show just 17 places be­tween the sides but the ev­i­dence of 90 sober­ing min­utes sug­gested the ac­tual dis­tance should be mea­sured in light years. By the time Rooney net­ted his land­mark goal, deftly flick­ing Juan Mata’s looped ball be­yond Al-Habsi, the home side had al­ready crafted – and spurned – two glo­ri­ous open­ings.

And af­ter the Eng­land skip­per’s neat one-two with Mar­tial al­lowed the French­man to steer a pre­cise fin­ish into the far cor­ner, the chances rained like con­fetti.

Rash­ford, who had more oneon-ones than Michael Parkin­son, first lashed into the side-net­ting, then straight at Al-Habsi.

Mata blasted over, Mar­tial mis­cued Rash­ford’s cut-back. Had Roy­als de­fender Liam Moore, un­marked four yards from goal, done more than wave a leg at Joey van den Berg’s low vol­ley, would the tide have turned? Prob­a­bly not.

Read­ing were too open, too re­spect­ful, too slow to fill gaps. Stam has de­servedly earned plau­dits for his side’s trans­for­ma­tion into stylish pro­mo­tion con­tenders, but their pos­ses­sion­based game was never go­ing to work against such world-class op­po­si­tion.

With Rooney con­duct­ing and Mata men­ac­ing, yet more chances came and went be­fore Michael Car­rick’s de­light­ful ball sent Rash­ford scam­per­ing clear to score his first goal in 18 games.

Mo­ments later it was four. Al-Habsi played a dan­ger­ous ball to Chris Gunter, who re­turned the favour with in­ter­est. Pur­sued by Rash­ford, the Oman stop­per em­bar­rass­ingly slashed at thin air, pre­sent­ing the young striker with a two-yard tap in.

Mour­inho, who started with­out star duo Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic and Paul Pogba, rightly hailed his side’s “in­ten­sity and pro­fes­sion­al­ism”.

HEADS WE WIN: United’s Marouane Fel­laini out­jumps Read­ing’s Yann Ker­mor­gant

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