Man United were beaten 2-0 by Reading at Leigh Sports Village. A Gabriel Osho header gave the Royals the lead in the first half. Former United youth Sam Smith doubled the lead in the second half and that proved to be enough for Reading to take the three points.
Nicky Butt named an unchanged side as 8th placed United took on 10th placed Reading in a Sunday afternoon fixture. Devonte Redmond began in a lone striker role while Charlie Scott continued to partner Axel Tuanzebe in central defence in absence of Regan Poole through suspension.
Reading’s style is to play out from the back. United did well to use that to their advance the previous time the sides faced each other, however, there seemed to be a reluctance to apply the same level of pressure which worked in the previous encounter. Luke Southwood, the Reading goalkeeper, saw plenty of the ball and was allowed to wander 10-20 yards outside of his penalty area.
United created chances when they applied pressure but those moment were few and far between. Callum Gribbin had United’s best chances in the first half. Loose control from him and close marking from the Reading defence saw the ball taken off his foot in the penalty area early on. Gribbin also saw a fairly weak free-kick easily saved by Southwood. His best effort saw him through on goal one-on-one with the goalkeeper. He dinked the ball over Southwood but the ball trickled out just wide. Devonte Redmond also saw a headed effort loop goalwards only to be claimed by Southwood.
The visitors had the better chances though as defensive errors and poor marking from United helped them. A mistake from Matthew Olosunde gifted possession to Reading. The ball made it’s way out to Josh Barrett. His effort got past Tuanzebe and Kieran O’Hara but Olosunde had made his way to the near post and blocked the ball on the goal-line.
Kieran O’Hara had to be on hand to make several good saves throughout the game. He made a really good save to prevent what looked like a definite goal. The ball went out for a corner and unfortunately Gabriel Osho was there to head into the back of the net to open the scoring for Reading.
In the second half United were restricted to fewer chances as Reading’s confidence had grown after the goal. Scott McTominay had a shot from distance. It deflected off an opposition player and tested Southwood who managed to get a strong hand to it and push it wide.
Some aspects of the first half were repeated. Demetri Mitchell had to be alert to head a Reading chance off the line. However, just after that Reading doubled their lead through former United youth player Sam Smith. It was the visitors second goal and it also came from a header. O’Hara’s view was restricted by the positioning of the striker, Andrija Novakovich, but there was no question of him being offside as Redmond was still on the goal-line.
Roughly ten minutes later O’Hara was substituted, so that he could join up with the first team travelling squad ahead of the FA Cup match against Blackburn. He was replaced by Max Johnstone, the younger brother of fellow United goalkeeper, Sam Johnstone, who is currently on loan with Aston Villa.
While there was a slight bit more urgency injected in the game in the final stages it wasn’t enough to even pull back a consolation goal and United’s poor run of form continues.
This loss has a significant impact on the Premier League 2 table. United drop to 9th in the table with the Royals leapfrogging the Reds. That leaves United just one point outside of the relegation area. There will need to be significant improvement if United aren’t going to follow up a title-winning season with relegation. The appointment of an appropriate permanent successor to Warren Joyce would be a welcome development.
Man United: O’Hara (M. Johnstone 69′), Olosunde (Warren 46′), Tuanzebe (c), Scott, Mitchell, Gribbin, Willock (Buffonge 60′), Harrop, McTominay, Kehinde, Redmond.
Unused Substitutes: Whelan, Bohui.
Booking(s): McTominay (85′).
Man of the Match: Charlie Scott.
Reading: Southwood, Holmes, Osho, Andresson, Richards, Holsgrove, Frost, Rinomhota, Smith, Barratt, Novakovich.
Unused Substitutes: Vancooten, Driscoll, Medford-Smith, Shokumbi, Rollinson.
Goal(s): Osho (32′), Smith (58′).