LONDON: Manchester United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer enjoyed his fifth successive victory since being named interim manager as his much-changed side beat second-tier strugglers Reading 2-0 at home in the FA Cup third round on Saturday.
Juan Mata’s penalty and a well-taken effort in first-half stoppage time by Romelu Lukaku, given his first start since Solskjaer took over, sent United into the fourth round where they were joined by holders Chelsea who cruised to a 2-0 victory over second-tier Nottingham Forest.
Arsenal, record 13-times winners, progressed with 19-year-old Joe Willock scoring twice in a 3-0 win at third-tier Blackpool.
It was a subdued performance by the 12-times FA Cup winners at Old Trafford, where Reading impressed, but maintained former United striker Solskjaer’s dream start to life in the hot seat vacated last month by Jose Mourinho who was sacked.
“We have performed a lot better, but you can’t ask for fantasy football every time and with the changes I made you can’t expect it to have the same flow and rhythm,” Solskjaer, who became the first United manager to begin his reign with five straight wins since Matt Busby, told reporters.
Alvaro Morata’s second-half brace was enough for Chelsea, who beat United in last year’s final, to move through.
Yet fellow Spaniard Cesc Fabregas, in almost certainly his last game for the club before he is expected to join Monaco, missed a penalty in an emotional farewell at Stamford Bridge.
Third-tier Gillingham grabbed the “giant-killer” award on a day lacking much of the traditional third-round drama as the Kent club beat Premier League Cardiff City 1-0 thanks to a late strike by Elliott List.
Accrington Stanley, also of the third tier, reached the fourth round with a 1-0 win over former winners Ipswich Town who suffered a ninth successive third-round exit.
Premier League bottom club Huddersfield Town went down 1-0 to second-tier Bristol City while fourth-tier Grimsby Town held on grimly at top-flight Crystal Palace despite having a player sent off after two minutes, but were eventually floored by Jordan Ayew’s 86th-minute winner.
Premier League strugglers Burnley made hard work of a 1-0 win over third-tier Barnsley in a match notable for a bizarre intervention by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) — the system being used in nine of the 32 third-round ties.
Burnley were awarded a penalty for a foul on Matej Vydra before the interval but just as he was running up to take the spot kick the referee Simon Hooper indicated that the decision had been reversed by VAR because of an offside in the build-up.
Chris Wood did score from the spot in stoppage time.
Solskjaer made nine changes to the side that beat Newcastle United in midweek and there was a disjointed feel to his team’s display as Reading matched their illustrious opponents.
Fred, another player to get a rare start, thought he had given United the lead midway through the first half but was flagged offside, although Mata was fouled in the build-up.
Referee Stuart Attwell, helped by VAR, brought play back to award a penalty which Spaniard Mata stroked home.
Reading’s Andy Yiadom and Danny Loader both wasted good chances and United were given breathing space when Lukaku latched onto Alexis Sanchez’s pass to round keeper Anssi Jaakkola and slot home.
The only moment of note in a dour second half was Solskjaer giving a debut to 19-year-old Dutch winger Tahith Chong.
Samir Nasri made his West Ham United debut as he returned from an 18-month doping ban — the London club beating Birmingham City 2-0 with Marko Arnautovic and Andy Carroll on target.
Brighton & Hove Albion beat Bournemouth 3-1 away in an all-Premier League affair with Anthony Knockaert, Yves Bissouma and Florin Andone all on target.
Everton scored twice in the opening 14 minutes against League Two leaders Lincoln City but scraped home 2-1 while top-flight Southampton were held 2-2 by Frank Lampard’s second-tier promotion chasers Derby County.
Newcastle United needed a late Matt Ritchie penalty to salvage a replay against Blackburn Rovers while Norwich City, second in the Championship, were surprised 1-0 at home by third-tier high-flyers Portsmouth who grabbed a stoppage-time winner.