United’s comfortable 2-0 win over a Championship side may not seem like anything for the fans to get excited about but after being knocked out of the League Cup by Derby County earlier this season nothing can be taken for granted.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made it five wins out of five and while Reading may have offered up the easiest opposition he will face this season, it did at least give him a chance to take a look at some of the players on the peripheries of his squad and decide if they truly are up to scratch. With the likes of Paul Pogba, David De Gea, Nemanja Matic and Luke Shaw left out of the squad it was an ideal opportunity for some players to prove their worth.
So who made the most of their chance to give the manager a bit of a headache as we approach a run of fixtures that will be the most testing of his time in the Old Trafford hotseat?
Here’s five players who had differing fortunes on Saturday afternoon.
1. Sergio Romero. After a disastrous game against Derby County, football’s best second-choice goalkeeper reminded everyone that if De Gea does finally leave for pastures news then all is not lost. A couple of decent saves against a Reading team that were willing to give the game a go, but just lacked the quality and some good distribution showed that Romero is more than a reserve option if we ever lose the world’s best ‘keeper.
Solskjaer’s midfield dilemma
2. Scott McTominay. Many years ago Darren Fletcher found himself labeled ‘Fergie’s love child’ after a series of questionable displays failed to stop him getting game time under the then United boss. Last season and the beginning of this one has seen McTominay being labeled Mourinho’s favourite after winning the inaugural manager’s player of the season and staying on the pitch against West Ham. McTominay did okay against Reading although judging by social media you’d think he’d pissed on Sir Matt Busby’s statue while singing Liverpool songs. At 22, he’s young(ish), he needs patience, with Ole he’ll get it but he may find it in short supply among the fans.
3. Marouane Fellaini. A symbol of Mourinho’s preference for physical pragmatism over attacking flair, Belgium’s finest former afro has found games hard to come by under Ole who doesn’t share his predecessors love for Marouane. Fellaini’s second half appearance told us very little we didn’t already know, his critics are perhaps overly harsh, the manager hasn’t completely given up on him but doesn’t see him as vital and he can do a decent job. The only question is does Ole see him as important enough to keep past January? The smart money says with the Reds fighting on three different fronts a player as experienced and useful as either an attacking or defensive option in midfield will remain at Old Trafford under Ole.
4. Alex Sanchez. Of all the players on the pitch is was arguably the former Arsenal man who more than anyone needed to show his United career wasn’t over and much like he has done since he arrived at Old Trafford, he showed glimpses of his talent. But not enough.
Sanchez was desperately unlucky to get injured and not have the chance to really get at Reading in the second half but Saturday probably raised more questions than it did answers.
5. Andreas Pereira. While the likes of Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku undoubtedly have a part to play this season, the same can’t be said for United’s Brazilian ‘youngster.’ Fred’s price tag and the fact he was bought just months ago means he’ll at the very least get until the end of the season to prove himself, but time could be running out for his countryman. At 23 Pereira is at an age where it’s make of break time as to whether he’s good enough for the Reds. Saturday was far from a bad afternoon for him, but it hardly cemented his importance to the squad and rumours of an imminent transfer may be more than just paper talk.