Man Utd 3 Reading 1: Casemiro’s stunning double sends Red Devils through as Andy Carroll sent off for 10-man visitors
OLD TRAFFORD went Brazil nuts and Andy Carroll simply went nuts as Manchester United cruised into the FA Cup last 16.
Samba stars Casemiro – with a double – and Fred were the unlikely marksmen with three in ten second-half minutes, to wreck Paul Ince’s return to his old stomping ground.
And just to make it a right miserable evening for the Royals boss, he saw striker Carroll sent packing after two ludicrous lunges earned two yellow cards.
Twice he slid in like a runaway horse – or donkey – on Tyrell Malacia and then Casemiro, to leave ref Darren England with a simple decision.
A dismissal, incidentally, which came with a comic slice as Carroll initially headed in the wrong direction, clearly not knowing where the tunnel was.
Mind you, given the problems the one-time Liverpool forward has had in locating the goal in recent times, maybe it should have come as no surprise.
And talking of goals, few had Casemiro and Fred down as the potential goal getters in a game which United always dominated yet had to wait nearly 55 minutes to break through.
For all Erik ten Hag had set his stall out by naming not far short of his strongest line up, there was plenty of huffing and puffing before the door finally came down.
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If they’d taken a fraction of the chances they created, a place in the fifth round would have been checked by the break as well.
Christian Eriksen curled a free kick inches wide, Bruno Fernandes dinked an effort just over and Wout Weghorst failed to make a proper connection bang in front.
Keeper Joe Lumley made an impressive save – an absolutely fabulous one you could say – to beat away a Marcus Rashford free kick, and Baba Rahman blocked Eriksen’s follow-up.
Mind you, when it came to blocks, centre-back Tom McIntyre made so many that he’ll wake up with more bruises than a night in a punishment parlour.
And even when it appeared that the dam had finally cracked, technology ruled otherwise.
Fernandes’ attempted ball into the box came back off McIntyre – again – and sat up for Weghorst to nod back into the danger area.
Rashford arrived at the far post to nod it down and over the line before Lumley dragged it from through his legs and out of his goal.
Yet while United celebrated, Reading survived, as Weghorst was half a blue-line-on-screen offside.
VAR official Dean Whitestone pointed it out and referee England ruled it out.
Considering the last time Stockley Park ruled on a goal at this place was THAT derby strike from Fernandes, maybe it was a case of fortune levelling itself out.
Yet it was fractions at best.
Enough, though, to save Reading.
Just as David De Gea then saved United when Reading enjoyed the rarest of excursions into United territory.
Rahman’s cross drifted to Malacia at the far post, and after Junior Hoilett nicked it off the napping left back, De Gea made a trademark stop with his feet.
Nonetheless, a warning shot that all that possession, all that territorial advantage and all that dominance meant nothing without a breakthrough.
It arrived ten minutes after the break with a goal very much made in Rio and finished in Manchester.
Antony was the architect with a magnificent pass which split the defence to pick out the perfectly timed run of Casemiro.
Crucially Mamadou Loum hesitated for half a second and that was enough for the Brazilian to pounce and dink a marvellous finish over Lumley.
Cue collective sighs of relief around most of Old Trafford… ones which were doubled three minutes later as the same man struck again to end any lingering doubts.
This time Fernandes grabbed the assist, if a simple two-yard lay-off merited it.
For in truth it was all Casemiro’s own work, curling one into the corner from 25 yards.
Well at least it would have been, had it not taken a slight clip off Tom Holmes’ hair en route to the net… even if it hardly altered the flight path.
Time, then, for Ten Hag to give some of his stars a break.
And when Fred replaced Eriksen, he got in on the Samba celebrations by bagging the third.
Again Reading were caught dozing, this time by Fernandes’ quick low ball into the box, and Fred’s finish was straight from the Neymar textbook with a cute close range flick.
All too much for Carroll, whose frustrations boiled over with those two rash dive-in challenges.
At least it gave him longer to dry the pony tail, eh.
In his absence, substitute Amadou Mbengue arrived to power in a consolation header that at least gave an impressive away support something to cheer.
As for United fans?
Well it was all pretty routine, really, and they remain the only English club still chasing silverware on four fronts.
A quadruple is, admittedly, stretching things a little… but with the strides they are making under Ten Hag, you’d be surprised if they don’t end up with at least one.
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