Casemiro underlined his importance to Manchester United with two goals as they cruised past Reading in 3-1 phenomenal display to reach the FA Cup fifth round at Old Trafford.
While the Brazil midfielder was was brought to the club in August 2022 to deliver steel to the heart of United’s midfield, he displayed his effectiveness further forward to break the Royals’ resistance early in the second half.
He scooped home the opening goal after racing on to Antony’s incisive pass, and doubled United’s lead four minutes later, curling in from the edge of the box after collecting Fred’s pass.
“He’s done what he was brought in to do. He’s a phenomenal player,” said United captain Harry Maguire.
“You don’t win what he’s won without being a top player. He’s improved the team, the morale, the performance and it is great to have him.”
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The former Real Madrid midfielder’s absence was sharply felt by United during their Premier League defeat at Arsenal last weekend, and he was given a standing ovation by the home supporters who fully recognise his value to the club.
“He [Casemiro] is really important with all his experience, but he is such a smart player and intelligent,” said United manager Erik ten Hag.
“He knows the positions, how to deal with the ball and also he is creative as well, and we are really happy with him. He is important for the improvement of the team.”
Any hopes Reading had of mounting a recovery were dented when Andy Carroll was sent off after picking up his second yellow card shortly before Fred backheeled in the hosts’ third goal from Bruno Fernandes’ cross.
And although Ten Hag’s side had opportunities to score a fourth, substitute Amadou Mbengue headed in a consolation for Championship side Reading from Tom Ince’s corner.
The last of United’s 12 FA Cup triumphs came in 2016 and Ten Hag signalled the importance he is placing on this competition by selecting a strong starting XI containing just one change from their Carabao Cup semi-final first-leg win against Nottingham Forest midweek.
And there could be little doubt United deserved their victory after dominating a one-sided affair in which they initially struggled to make the breakthrough because of profligate finishing.
Winger Antony was particularly wasteful with four shots in the first half, each curling effort almost a carbon copy of the previous one, all drifting wide of the far post.
Fernandes twice dragged efforts across goal and wide, while Wout Weghorst, Christian Eriksen and Marcus Rashford all had opportunities to break the deadlock.
When United did get the ball in the back of the net VAR came to Reading’s rescue, with Netherlands forward Weghorst ruled offside before he nodded the ball in Rashford’s direction, with the England striker heading in at the back post in vain.