Solskjaer makes it five wins in a row
United coach rings the changes for Cup match against Reading
MANCHESTER United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer enjoyed his fifth successive victory since being named interim manager as his much-changed side beat second-tier strugglers Reading 2-0 at home in the FA Cup third round yesterday.
Juan Mata’s penalty and a welltaken effort in first-half stoppage time by Romelu Lukaku, given his first start since Solskjaer took over, sent United into the fourth round.
It was a subdued performance by the 12-times FA Cup winners at Old Trafford, where Reading impressed, but maintained former United striker Solskjaer’s dream start to life in the hot seat vacated last month by Jose Mourinho who was sacked.
Solskjaer becomes the first United manager to begin his reign with five straight wins since Sir Matt Busby.
United were joined in the next round by West Ham United who beat second-tier Birmingham City 2-0 at the London Stadium – Samir Nasri making his debut for the Hammers in his first game since completing an 18-month doping ban.
Austrian Marko Arnautovic put West Ham ahead early on but was later substituted because of injury. His replacement, Andy Carroll, struck West Ham’s second in stoppage time.
Premier League strugglers Burnley made hard work of a 1-0 win over third-tier Barnsley in a match notable for a bizarre intervention by the video assistant referee (VAR) – the system being used in nine of the 32 third-round ties.
Burnley were awarded a penalty for a foul on Matej Vydra before the interval but just as he was running
In the earlier kickoffs, West Bromwich Albion beat 2013 FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic 1-0 while third-tier Shrewsbury Town held Stoke City, relegated from the top flight last season, to a 1-1 draw. Sheffield Wednesday and Luton Town drew 0-0.
Cup holders Chelsea were in action later, beating Nottingham Forest 2-0 at homewhile Arsenal visited Blackpool.
Solskjaer made nine changes to the side that beat Newcastle United in midweek and there was a disjointed feel to his team’s display as Reading matched their illustrious opponents.
Fred, another player to get a rare start, thought he had given United the lead midway through the first half but was flagged offside, although Mata was fouled in the build-up.
Referee Stuart Attwell, helped by VAR, brought play back to award a penalty which Spaniard Mata stroked home.
Reading had chances before and after that with Andy Yiadom and Danny Loader guilty of bad misses, and United were given breathing space when Lukaku latched onto a superb pass by Alexis Sanchez to round keeper Anssi Jaakkola and slot home.
“He has had his time off over Christmas and now he is getting his fitness back,” Solskjaer said of Lukaku.
“He needed the 90 minutes, but I thought he took the ball well with a great pass from Alexis - that’s two (assists) in two (games) for him now he has made which is also a positive.”
The only moment of note in a dour second half was Solskjaer giving a debut to 19-year-old Dutch youngster Tahith Chong. | Reuters