Romelu Lukaku Scores Again; Manchester United Beat Reading in FA Cup

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2019

Manchester United's Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku (R) celebrates scoring their second goal 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)
OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

Manchester United booked their spot in the fourth round of the FA Cup with a 2-0 win over Reading at Old Trafford on Saturday. Romelu Lukaku scored yet again, making it three straight matches with a goal for the Belgian.

Championship side Reading started well, but Juan Mata opened the scoring from the penalty spot against the run of play. Lukaku doubled the advantage after the break.

United have won five straight since the appointment of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.


Pereira Has to Leave United in January

Solskjaer decided to rotate part of his squad on Saturday and gave opportunities to several young talents, including fan favourite Andreas Pereira.

The 23-year-old Brazilian has become something of a forgotten man despite several standout showings in pre-season, performances that often had fans buzzing about his long-term potential and role at the club.

Unfortunately for those fans and the midfielder, he fell flat against Reading:

Man United News @ManUtdMEN

Andreas Pereira is failing to take his chance so far #mufc https://t.co/nPSJ3h0YmB

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He wasn't the only one:

Samuel Luckhurst @samuelluckhurst

You can see why most of these starters don't get in the first XI. Some competition winner-style performances. #mufc

Reading aren't exactly a high-flying bunch―they sit 23rd out of 24 teams in the Championship standings and are winless since early Novemberyet Pereira failed to make any sort of positive impression.

Things haven't worked out for him at the club. His development has stalled due to a lack of opportunities, and the Red Devils can't keep waiting on him.

As reported by the Mirror's Rich Jones in December, Santos president president Jose Carlos Peres has already told A Tribuna that his team wants to sign the youngster and are eyeing a January move.

It's an opportunity Pereira should seize. At the age of 23, he's quickly losing his status as a prospect and desperately needs a change of scenery.


United Fans Need to Cool the Chong Hype

Tahith Chong finally made his long-awaited debut for the senior side on Saturday, coming on as a second-half substitute for Juan Mata. He got roughly 30 minutes of playing time, and it's fair to say fans were excited:

Simon Stone @sistoney67

Ha ha. "One Chong, we've only got one Chong" sing @ManUtd fans.

For years, the teenager has been hyped as the next super-talent to graduate from the academy. He routinely looked far too good to go up against players his own age in youth competitions, and he deservedly won the club's Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award at the end of last season.

To say there is hype surrounding his talent is an understatement:

FootballJOE @FootballJOE

Is Tahith Chong the first Premier League youngster to have had his face in FIFA before making his first team debut? https://t.co/lrTJ5gDQXu

So how did he get on against Reading? In truth, the Dutchman did little. He flashed his talent with some nifty footwork but didn't create much danger, and he picked up a booking midway through his cameo appearance.

Chong has bags of talent and there's no reason to believe he won't live up to the hype. United fans aren't doing him any favours by treating him as a guaranteed future star, however.

Let the teenager develop in peace, and don't expect any miracles during the next few months. Making it as a professional is difficult enough as is―there's no need to add to the pressure.


Uninspired Performance Proves United Lack Quantity, as Well as Quality

Saturday's outing was undoubtedly the worst of the Solskjaer era, as Reading gave United a battle and could have walked away with the upset with some more composure in front of goal.

Their efforts were aided by lackluster outings from some of United's backups, highlighting the lack of quality depth in the squad. The likes of Matteo Darmian, Pereira and even Scott McTominay were lacking compared to some of their more-heralded team-mates.

Amid all of the talk of potential star-quality January additions and United's need for spending on top-end talent, it's hard not to note they are lacking in solid role players as well.

The Premier League's elite clubs don't just trot out a starting XI that's better than United's; they also have superior depth. Rivals Manchester City are a prime example―the likes of Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus have all played less than 1000 Premier League minutes so far, and the Citizens have barely skipped a beat without star man Kevin De Bruyne.

Liverpool have similar luxury, with Xherdan Shaqiri and Naby Keita playing less than 1000 Premier League minutes so far and Daniel Sturridge―a former 21-goal scorer in a single season―logging less than 300.

United don't just have to spend on their starting XI―the Red Devils need to round out their squad with better depth players as well if they want to compete for the title again.


What's Next?

United will face Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium on January 13 in the Premier League. Reading host Nottingham Forest a day earlier.


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