MANCHESTER, England, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Manchester United produced their least impressive performance under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the Norwegian offered rare starts to some out-of-favour big names in Saturday’s FA Cup third round win over second-tier Reading.
Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku, handed his first start under Solskjaer, took his chance with United’s second goal just before halftime after Juan Mata’s penalty put the hosts in front.
But with nine changes to the side that beat Newcastle United in midweek, United’s fourth straight Premier League win since Solskjaer replaced sacked Jose Mourinho, it was an unconvincing display against a side second-bottom in the Championship.
“You can’t ask for more than going through but the way we played wasn’t the best,” said Solskjaer, who matched Matt Busby’s record of winning his first five matches in charge.
“They controlled it in the first five minutes and we weren’t up to speed. But we made nine changes, and they hadn’t played together as a unit so I made it hard for the boys.
“But we got the goals and managed to get through.”
United’s resurgence under Solskjaer has hoisted them to within six points of fourth-placed Chelsea in the Premier League.
Yet Solskjaer said his side would need to be much sharper when they face third-placed Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley next week — his hardest match since taking over.
“We have performed a lot better, but you can’t ask for fantasy football every time and with the changes I made you can’t expect it to have the same flow and rhythm,” Solskjaer told reporters.
“We are going to have some days to recover and then train hard because we know that if that performance is repeated at Wembley against Spurs, we are not going to come back with a clean sheet and any points.”
Solskjaer hopes Chilean Alexis Sanchez, like Lukaku handed his first start since the managerial change, will be available after being forced off in the 64th with a hamstring injury.
“I hope it’s not going to be too bad — it’s the same hamstring that he’s been having trouble with but we’ll see. Hopefully he’ll be okay for next weekend,” Solskjaer said.
Solskjaer also offered United fans a first glimpse of Dutch teenage winger Tahith Chong as a second-half substitute.
“He did two or three good things, he got the crowd going, he is exciting,” Solskjaer said.
“You don’t run the game as a 19-year-old in your first appearance, but he got 30 minutes and I think he showed a few glimpses of what he can do. It was not like it was 4-0 and a party, so he did well defensively.” (Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris and Toby Davis)