TWO GOALS in each half ensured Jaap Stam’s return to Old Trafford was not a happy one as Reading were thrashed 4-0 by Manchester United in the third round of the FA Cup.
Royals got off to the worst possible start, falling 2-0 behind to goals from Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial.
Liam Moore missed a big chance to pull one back but Marcus Rashford’s late brace did not flatter the hosts, who missed a string of chances to extend their advantage throughout.
Stam was handed a blow before kick-off with the news that captain Paul McShane would miss
the trip to face his former club due to a hand injury meaning Joey van den Berg dropped into defence with George Evans coming back in.
The other big call saw Liam Kelly selected with John Swift having to settle for a place on the bench in the other of two changes from the victory at Bristol City.
Cup holders United, meanwhile, made nine changes with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all waiting in reserve on the bench, but still named 11 full internationals in their line-up.
In his pre-match interview Stam said he was curious to see how his side would get on against one of the in-form sides in the country and in truth he will not have liked what he saw for the first 15 minutes.
Royals looked shell-shocked from the off as wave after wave of United attack saw Rashford fire wide and Rooney see a shot well saved by Ali Al-Habsi before the latter soon broke the deadlock.
Martial showed good feet to breeze past Chris Gunter and pick out Mata, who teed up Rooney to divert the ball into the far corner for his record-equalling goal on seven minutes with his 249th for Man Utd, level with leading scorer Sir Bobby Charlton.
And eight minutes later it was 2-0 as Martial was given far too much time and space to glide into the box and curl into the bottom corner.
The occasion looked to be getting the better of the visitors, but Stam’s side showed signs of life as the half wore on.
Garath McCleary did well to dink a cross over to Roy Beerens and the Dutchman’s ball across goal so nearly found Liam Kelly to tap in, but Michael Carrick intercepted.
And with 25 minutes on the clock, Reading created their best chance of the half when a deep corner was volleyed goalwards by van den Berg but Moore failed to connect from close range and divert the ball on target.
But it was United who ended the first half well on top and must have wondered how they only led 2-0 at the break with Rashford rounding Al-Habsi and firing into the side netting before both he and Martial also missed further good chances to extend the lead.
Man Utd’s increasing threat down Reading’s left had not gone unnoticed by Stam who made a switch at half-time, bringing on Jordan Obita to replace Tyler Blackett.
But in truth the home side continued to dominate with Al-Habsi called into action early to parry away a Carrick shot before his fumbled Marouane Fellaini save fell to Rooney, who was also denied by the Omani stopper.
Reading managed to stay in the game and enjoyed a good 15 minute spell of possession in the Man Utd half without really testing Romero.
So it came as no real surprise to concede two more late on as the determined Rashford
finally got on the score sheet.
The first came following a fine Carrick through ball which Rashford dispatched one-on-one before profiting from a horror moment which Al-Habsi will want to forget in a hurry.
Under pressure from the England striker, Al-Habsi got his clearance all wrong, kicking the ball with his standing foot and allowing Rashford to smash into the empty net.
It could have been worse in the closing minutes as Fellaini was denied from close range, but Reading’s cup journey this year was over before it had barely begun with United racking up their eighth straight victory.
READING: Al-Habsi; Gunter (c), L. Moore, van den Berg, Blackett (Obita 45); Evans (Swift 57), Williams, Kelly; McCleary, Beerens, Kermorgant (Samuel 78).
Subs not used: S. Moore, Watson, Cooper, Meite.
MAN UTD: Romero; Young, Smalling, Rojo (Jones 19), Blind; Carrick (Fosu-Mensah 78), Fellaini; Mata (Schweinsteiger 78), Rooney (c), Martial, Rashford.
Subs not used: Pereira, Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Ibrahimovic.
Goals: Rooney (7), Martial (15), Rashford x2 (75,79)
Yellow card: Young (54)
Referee: Andre Marriner