Reading were knocked out of the FA Youth Cup in the fourth round as a clinical Manchester United side punished the Royals mistakes to win 3-1 on a night of fine margins.

A bright start from the hosts saw no reward as Reading failed to take their chances before United scored three times in 13 minutes to take a 3-0 lead into half-time. Reading fought back after the break and got one goal back through substitute Aston Greaves but it was too little too late.

Reading co-managers Michael Donaldson and Mikele Leigertwood chose a 4-4-1-1 formation with exciting young talent Jahmari Clarke leading the line. Fans will of course remember Clarke from his thrilling breakthrough against Birmingham where burst onto the scene to notch a brace and give the Royals a huge victory.

In midfield behind Clarke, Benjamin Purcell and Jack Senga marshalled the middle of the park with David Nyarko on the right wing and Jeremiah Okine-Peters on the left. Caylan Vickers started in the space between midfield and attack, drifting all over the pitch to find pockets of space and pick up the ball.

Reading Chronicle: The scoreboard reflecting tonight's big clash. Image by: JasonPIXThe scoreboard reflecting tonight's big clash. Image by: JasonPIX

Louie Holzman, who made his first-team debut against Kidderminster Harriers in the FA Cup, was joined in central defence by Abraham Kanu with Sam Paul at left back and Kelvin Abrefa at right back. Matthew Rowley started in goal.

It was the visitors who started on top of a fairly even opening period but after a pair of tame efforts from distance, Reading started to grow into the game. Clarke had the Royals first chance of the night but Okine-Peters cross was slightly behind the striker allowing Radek Vitek in the United net to make a simple save.

Moments later Vickers went close when his effort from a tight angle looped over Vitek and just wide via a deflection. Clarke had the next chance, latching onto Nyarko’s low cross before seeing his effort deflected and saved.

Reading would learn to rue their missed opportunities as United came roaring back with a vengeance. A bad touch from Holzman on the edge of the box allowed Kobbie Mainoo to steal in and finish at the near post to give United the lead in the 25th minute.

From that point the Premier League academy side took control. Two superb bits of last-ditch defending from Paul kept the score at 1-0 but he was powerless to stop United when they eventually did double their lead in the 37th minute, Sam Mather finishing past Rowley from the edge of the box with the aid of a deflection.

This competition is as much about learning as it is about winning and Reading were taught a harsh lesson when a decent first half ended 3-0. Just seconds after United’s second, slack passing out of the back allowed the visitors to pinch the ball before working it into Charlie MacNeill 12 yards from goal. The striker did the rest, turning his marker and finishing expertly.

Reading Chronicle: The SCL under the lights. Image by: JasonPIXThe SCL under the lights. Image by: JasonPIX

Attitude doesn’t appear to be a concern for this Reading team who came out in the second half full of life and energy despite the 3-0 scoreline. Okine-Peters nearly got a goal back but couldn’t quite jump high enough to meet Vickers’ cross before Senga saw a shot from the edge of the box hacked away. 

United had a big chance to add a fourth in the 73rd minute when Mather broke free on the left side of the box but he pulled his shot wide past the far post.

Truthfully, Reading’s performance deserved at least a goal and they did find the net with seven minutes plus stoppage time left to play. A corner was worked back into the box and when it ricocheted out to Aston Greaver free at the back post, the substitute made no mistake, smashing home to make it 3-1.

The home side pushed for another and nearly found a route to goal through Harrison Furlong but Logan Pye just nipped in to win the ball as the Reading attacker was preparing to shoot.

Plenty of attacking intent came in the seven minutes of stoppage time but Reading couldn’t quite fashion anything more of note as Manchester United ran out 3-1 winner to end the Royals’ FA Youth Cup run.

READING FC XI: Rowley; Abrefa (Abdel-Salam 71’), Holzman, Kanu, Paul; Purcell, Senga, Nyarko, Okine-Peters, Vickers (Furlong 61’); Clarke (Greaver 46’)