Soccer

United eases past Reading in F.A. Cup

AP, AFP-JIJI

Alexis Sanchez was resting up in the Manchester United dugout moments after getting substituted when he got a tap on the arm.

It was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, telling him to get out of the manager’s seat and find another.

There’s no doubt who’s the boss inside Old Trafford these days.

On a day when English Premier League strugglers Huddersfield and Cardiff lost to lower-league opponents in the FA Cup third round, there were no problems for Solskjaer’s United as the interim coach collected a record-tying fifth straight win to start his tenure when his team beat second-tier Reading 2-0.

Juan Mata — from the penalty spot — and Romelu Lukaku scored the first-half goals for United, allowing Solskjaer to join the great Matt Busby (in 1946) as the only United managers to win their first five games. The Norwegian is in charge until the end of the season after coming in as the replacement for the fired Jose Mourinho last month, but has stated he wants the job on a full-time basis.

This was hardly a convincing win by United — Reading wasted a slew of chances at Old Trafford — and Solskjaer put the underwhelming performance down to selecting a makeshift lineup, albeit one filled with international players.

“It was always going be difficult with my team selection,” Solskjaer said. “I made it hard for the players to be fair on them because it’s a team that’s never played together.”

Solskjaer played a virtual reserve team, sticking to his promise to give all his squad a chance to impress, and Mata scored the opening goal in the 22nd minute.

Following a move instigated by Sanchez down the left, Fred had a goal ruled out because of offside but a penalty was awarded following consultation with the video assistant referee after a foul on Mata in the buildup. The Spanish playmaker sent the goalkeeper the wrong way from the spot.

Sanchez then played a pass behind Reading’s defense for Lukaku to round the goalkeeper and slot home from an acute angle in stoppage time.

“Great pass by Alexis. That’s two in two he’s made, so that’s also a positive,” said Solskjaer, referring to Sanchez’s assist in the 2-0 league win at Newcastle on Wednesday.

Reigning champion Chelsea earned a 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest as Cesc Fabregas waved to all corners of Stamford Bridge, patted the badge on his Chelsea jersey, and was hugged by teammates David Luiz and Eden Hazard as he walked off the field near the end.

It was an emotional afternoon for Fabregas , who likely played his last game for Chelsea — and in English football — ahead of a reported move to French team Monaco. He couldn’t mark the occasion with a goal: He had a penalty saved in the 30th minute after a stuttered run-up.

It was left to fellow Spaniard Alvaro Morata to score in the 49th and 59th.

Arsenal’s match at third-tier Blackpool looked like it might have been delayed after a Blackpool fan climbed onto the roof the Gunners’ bus and sat down in protest at the conduct of his club’s owners, but was persuaded to come down after a lengthy stand-off.

Joe Willock will be glad the game went ahead.

The 19-year-old Arsenal forward netted twice at Bloomfield Road, becoming the club’s youngest F.A. Cup scorer in nearly a decade. His only other goal for Arsenal came in the Europa League.

Alex Iwobi scored Arsenal’s other goal.

In the two surprises of the third round so far, Huddersfield — the Premier League’s last-place team — lost 1-0 at second-tier Bristol City, last season’s English League Cup semifinalist, while Cardiff was beaten by third-tier Gillingham 1-0.