Manchester United welcome back former defender Jaap Stam, who takes his Reading team to Old Trafford for the FA Cup third round tie. Jose Mourinho has opted to rest key players Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba for the match, among others, opting for a midfield partnership of Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick, with Marcus Rashford leading the line.
United were all over Reading from the start and was 2-0 up in just 15 minutes. Anthony Martial started the move for the opener, running down the wing before cutting back to Juan Mata, who’s lofted pass was guided in by Wayne Rooney. Rooney then turned supplier for the second, passing to Martial who ran at the defence before scoring a softly placed finish. Rashford then scored United’s third in the second half, getting on the end of a terrific pass from Michael Carrick, and scored a tidy finish. He then got his second and United’s fourth by taking advantage of Ali Al-Habsi’s indecision and pressed him into giving up possession before smashing it in just before the goal line.
Rashford didn’t have the easiest game. He found himself on the end of good chances in the first half yet struggled to convert, the biggest example being him failing to finish having got on the end of a Chris Smalling through ball and rounding Al-Habsi. Despite his struggles, his dogged determination coupled with his searing pace and direct style caused chaos to Wigan’s defence. His pace stretched the defence leading to either him or a teammate being available for a through ball.
Not that he’s the only threat up front, far from it. Martial on the wing was a joy to watch. His dribbling skill was key to United’s first two goals, as he carried the ball from the fringes and into the danger area for assist maker Mata, before dancing past opposition players and calmly slotting one in himself for the second.
And the there’s Rooney. His goal made history, as it takes his overall United tally to 249, equalling the 40-year-old record set by Sir Bobby Charlton. Beyond that, he was instrumental in United’s attack. He was involved in creating and was even pushing the defensive line by some clever running off the ball. His assist for Martial was merely part of his contribution, and would have easily had at least one more, if not for the crucial intervention of Reading defender Joey van den Berg, and was inches away from breaking the goals record, denied by Al-Habsi from point blank range.
This was a difficult pick, as all three put in incredible performances. But the Man of the Match to the man of the hour, Rooney. His performance was somewhat more subtle than the other two, no flashy bits of skill or lightning pace, but was definitely no less impactful. A performance worthy of the history it creates