Manchester United's English striker Marcus Rashford (C) tries to hold off Reading's English midfielder Andy Rinomhota (R) during the English FA Cup third round football match between Manchester United and Reading at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on January 5, 2019. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /         (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

4 Things We Learned as Manchester United Squeeze Past Championship Strugglers Reading

It was a less than impressive victory for Manchester United, but it secured Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a record five wins from his first five games. Reading dominated possession but found themselves behind in the contest following a controversial penalty call awarded after a VAR review. 


Juan Mata was the man who was brought down in a confusing encounter and the Spaniard stepped up to convert from the spot. Romelu Lukaku latched on to the first real chance from open play right before the break and powered the ball home to give United a comfortable 2-0 lead at half time. 


Reading continued to take advantage of a poor display from United's second string but couldn't find a way through as they crashed out of the FA Cup.

1. VAR Still Needs a Review

Manchester United took the lead through somewhat controversial circumstances after Fred saw his goal ruled out offside. It went to a VAR review with the officials then deciding to award a penalty for a foul on Juan Mata in the build up. 


No one was debating the clumsy challenge from Omar Richards but the controversy came from the manner of the decision. The first infraction was Fred in an offside position which was rightfully caught by the linesman. As the move went on Mata went down as Fred and Romelu Lukaku were caught offside again. 


The ball should have already been dead following the first infraction which should nullify all further play including additional fouls. In the confusion the penalty was awarded and it's another example of why we need more clarity in these VAR decisions. 

2. Manchester United Need to Invest in Their Academy

It's easy to romanticise the old Alex Ferguson era but he did always seems to have an academy side that was ready to impact the first team. Manchester United were famed for bringing young and local players through and making them stars. 


It seems that those days are gone and have been replaced with the mega-investment model that the board have relied on to fill the void. It's made it possible to see a United side with no homegrown players in the squad and that perhaps has been what's missing from the current team. 


United's second string were almost outclassed by Championship strugglers Reading, ending the game with just 40% of the possession despite playing at home. They also had fewer shots than their opponents and didn't win their first corner until 85 minutes into the game. A lot of that will be glossed over because of the result but this was a very poor performance from a team of Manchester United's calibre. 

3. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Can Lead United Forwards

Manchester United have not been overly tested by the fixtures thrown up during Solskjaer's early reign. A hot and cold Bournemouth side were the only opponents who are not currently embroiled in a relegation battle. 


The Norwegian can only beat the opposition that's in front of him though and he has done that better than any manager in United's history by winning his first five games. Saturday's performance did have a glimmer of that old Fergie magic as well in that the form was woeful but United still won comfortably. 


Finding a way to win under pressure was something that plagued Jose Mourinho's reign but Solskjaer continues to succeed in that manner. It's an impressive audition and one that suggests Solskjaer can lead United forward long-term regardless of the result at Tottenham

4. Reading Need a Forward in January

On another day this would be a performance to be proud of for Reading, having dominated periods of the match at Old Trafford. There are definitely positives they can take into their Championship relegation battle, but forgetting they were the 'lesser' side there was a glaring problem in their performance. 


Despite enjoying upwards of 60% possession throughout, Reading struggled to carve out any clear shots on Sergio Romero's goal. Other than a decent near-post effort from full-back Andy Yiadom that shouldn't trouble a professional keeper, it's hard to remember a proper attempt on goal.


The Royals moved the ball well but it largely went nowhere, with United's defence happy to see out the remainder of the game with their side in the lead. When Reading did broach the final third the quality was simply not there. 


Jose Gomes needs to add a focal point to that attack to make the build-up play worthwhile, because the players don't seem to know what to do when they approach the danger areas.