Barclays Premier League Under-21s Division 1
Reading vs. Manchester United
Venue: Adams Park
Date: Monday, 11 January 2016
Kick-off: 19:00 GMT
Will Keane celebrated his 23rd Birthday with a hat-trick, with Matty Willock’s shot deflecting off the number nine to sandwich a penalty in each half.
Winger Tarique Fosu bagged a late consolation, with Keane also taking over the captain’s armband after James Weir’s withdrawal with 15 minutes to go.
It took until the opening goal, almost 25 minutes in, for the first action of any note, as James Weir’s pass found Keane, who was brought down inside the area by Dominic Hyam.
Keane made no mistake converting his spot-kick, despite the ball flicking off the trailing leg of Stuart Moore as he dived to his right.
Less than five minutes later, Willock’s surging run led to his shot deflecting off Keane and finding its way into the back of the net, where we can allow the two of them to fight over who is claiming such goal.
Three could have been the magic number, as another bursting run forward from the midfield saw Willock thread in Weir, but his low shot was well-saved by Moore, as Reading cleared their lines.
Fosu was booked by referee Rick Hulme for bringing down Guillermo Varela as United looked to break, with Josh Harrop dragging a shot harmlessly wide, before half-time arrived with a two goal cushion for the visitors.
Into the second half and Varela forced referee Hulme to book another Royals player, as Shane Griffin pulled back the Uruguyan cynically.
Just after the hour mark and Weir found Harrop inside the area, with Gabriel Osho bringing down United’s number down, and Keane sent Moore the wrong way via the penalty, placing the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.
Harrop’s promising run led to his left-footed shot saved behind as the resulting corner saw Weir’s attempt deflect over the bar, as Donald Love saw a volley blocked from distance moments later.
Former Hull City striker and Scotland U21 international Harry Cardwell shot wide when the substitute really should have pulled a goal back for the home side.
Willock, a former Reading youngster, saw his left-footed strike curl just over, as Harrop saw another attempt parried after a give-and-go with Varela.
Fosu and Aaron Kuhl, son of Reading U21 boss Martin, failed to test Joel Pereira with their free-kicks falling over the bar on separate occasions in the space of two minutes, but the former did find the back of the net with a calm finish after being played in behind the United backline.
An impressive away victory for Warren Joyce’s side, who looked comfortable and in control for most of the evening.
They leave Berkshire with the three points that leapfrog them above tonight’s opponents into second, closing in on leaders Sunderland, with notable games in hand on the Black Cats as well.
A return to Leigh Sports Village to take on Southampton is up next for this age group, where United will be looking to build on seven victories in their last eight games.
Manchester United: J. Pereira; Varela, Williams, Love, Riley; Fosu-Mensah, Redmond; Weir (Warren 75), Harrop, Harrop, Willock; Keane.
Subs: Rathbone, O’Hara, Warren, Gribbin, Mitchell.
Manager: Warren Joyce
Reading: Moore; Long, Osho, Hyam, Griffin; Fernandez, Kuhl; Stacey, Kelly (Novakovich 65), Fosu; Liburd (Cardwell 65).
Subs: Owusu, Ward, Shaughnessy, Novakovich, Cardwell.
Manager: Martin Kuhl