London, Jan 5 (AFP) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer enjoyed a fifth successive win since taking over as interim manager of Manchester United when his side beat Reading 2-0 in the third round of the FA Cup at Old Trafford on Saturday.
The former United striker had already guided the Red Devils to a run of four Premier League victories since being appointed coach after Jose Mourinho was sacked last month.
That winning sequence continued against second-tier strugglers Reading, with the third round marking the entry into the FA Cup, the world’s oldest senior knockout football competition, of England’s top-flight clubs.
United, last season’s losing finalists, were 2-0 up before half-time, thanks to goals from Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku but Reading had their chances against a still suspect defence, although Solskjaer had made nine changes to his team.
– ‘Wasn’t the best’ –
“You can’t ask for more than going through but the way we played wasn’t the best,” Solskjaer told the BBC.
“They controlled it in the first five minutes and we weren’t up to speed. But we made nine changes, so I made it hard for the boys because they hadn’t played together too much but we got the goals and managed to get through.” The only downside for United came when Alexis Sanchez suffered a recurrence of a hamstring problem.
“I hope it’s not going to be too bad – it’s the same hamstring that he’s been having trouble with, but we’ll see,” said Solskjaer.
Mata gave United, 12-times winners of the Cup, the lead in unusual fashion in the 22nd minute.
United initially had a goal disallowed for offside against Fred but referee Stuart Attwell, after a lengthy consultation with the video assistant referee, awarded the home side a penalty for a foul on Mata in the build-up.
The Spanish midfielder then scored from the spot, sending Reading goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola the wrong way.
Sanchez and Lukaku were both making their first United starts under Solskjaer and the pair combined to make it 2-0 deep into stoppage time at the end of the first-half.
From Sanchez’s through-ball, the onrushing Lukaku rounded Jaakkola to score from a tight angle.
Elsewhere, an all-Premier League clash saw Brighton win 3-1 away to south coast rivals Bournemouth.
Brighton, beaten in a replay by United in the 1983 FA Cup final, scored with what amounted to their first attack of the game when Anthony Knockaert fired them into a 31st-minuted lead.
Three minutes later it was 2-0, when Yves Bissouma’s long-range shot went in off the post.
Bournemouth pulled a goal back through Marc Pugh’s fine effort from 20 yards out but Brighton restored their two-goal lead in the 64th minute when Florin Andone headed in from the Seagulls’ first corner of the game.
– Arnautovic scores and goes –
Marko Arnautovic had a bizarre match as West Ham beat Championship club Birmingham 2-0.
The Austrian striker scored as early as the second minute.
Yet Arnautovic was, for no clear reason, substituted after 19 minutes by Hammers boss Manuel Pellegrini.
Andy Carroll, the man who replaced Arnautovic, made it 2-0 in the 90th minute when the forward’s header saw him score his first goal since April.
West Ham’s Samir Nasri, the former Arsenal and Manchester City midfielder playing 60 minutes on his debut for the east London side, having joined after completing a doping ban.
Premier League strugglers Burnley needed a late penalty from Chris Wood to see off third-tier Barnsley 1-0.
Bakary Sako’s goal was enough to give West Brom a 1-0 win over fellow Championship club Wigan, shock FA Cup-winners in 2013.
FA Cup holders Chelsea face Championship club Nottingham Forest in one of Saturday’s 1500 GMT ties, with Arsenal — the record 13 times FA Cup winners, away to third tier Blackpool in a 1730 GMT kick-off clash.
Premier League champions Manchester City are at home to Championship side Rotherham on Sunday.
Liverpool, the Premier League leaders, play Wolves in an all-top flight clash at Anfield on Monday.
Tottenham Hotspur became the first club into the fourth round this season with a 7-0 rout of fourth-tier Tranmere on Friday. AFP PDS PDS
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.