Aliou Traore celebrates his goal for Manchester United Under-23s against Reading with team-mates Ethan Galbraith and Tahith Chong

U23s: Reds wrap up the year with Royals rout

Manchester United Under-23s brought down the curtain on a terrific first half of our Premier League 2 Division Two season by beating Reading 4-1 at Madejski Stadium on Monday evening.

Arnau Puigmal, Aliou Traore, Tahith Chong and Dillon Hoogewerf scored the goals as the Reds garnered another three points, while Adam Liddle found the net for the Berkshire club.

The Reds went into this fixture on the back of a six-game winning streak and were hoping to catapult into another victory in a bid to keep pace with West Ham United, the league leaders. In fact, the Hammers are United’s next opponents at this level - with just a single point separating them, the teams will meet on Monday 6 January 2020 at the home ground of Dagenham & Redbridge.
Video
Aliou Traore celebrates with first goalscorer Arnau Puigmal
See how Arnau Puigmal put our Under-23s ahead against Reading.
Reading’s season so far has been something of a mixed bag of results but they gave United some early notice that league positions could count for little as both Josh Barrett and Michael Olise put Matej Kovar's goal under threat in the opening moments.

United weathered that early storm and it wasn’t long before the action at the other end was thick and fast. Both Chong and Traore started to slip into gear and with an extra modicum of accuracy with their shooting, they could have both got onto the scoresheet.
Just before the half-hour mark, Traore was in need of attention from the medics after a clash of heads with Royals defender Roberto Nditi left him prone on the ground. Happily, both players were cleared to continue with the requirement for substitutes unnecessary.

Any concerns that the United bench may have harboured regarding Traore’s fitness were soon dispelled when, having beaten two Reading players, he set off on a sprint down the left wing which must have stretched to more than fifty yards.
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Aliou Traore celebrates after scoring United's second goal against Reading Under-23s
Watch Traore's terrific goal as United went 2-1 up.
Both teams were having their moments as they sought to make the breakthrough and with five minutes of the first half to go that privilege fell to United. Ethan Laird won the ball out on the right and, after exchanging passes with Chong, he overlapped and wasted no time in picking out Puigmal in the middle. The Spanish youngster completed an excellent flowing attack with a fine finish past Royals keeper Jokull Andresson.

It would be fair to say that it was just about a deserved lead for the Reds but the home side weren’t about to dwell on their misfortune and three minutes into added time, their striker Liddle nodded home the leveller from close range.
 
The excitement of the closing first-half minutes was sustained after the restart with both teams, Chong for United and Reading’s Ryan East, striking the woodwork.
Video
Tahith Chong celebrates with Aliou Traore after scoring a brilliant goal against Reading Under-23s
Check out Chong's brilliant effort that made the score 3-1 to the Reds.
Reading picked up the gauntlet as the game moved towards the hour-mark and Kovar's goal was under almost constant threat. But, as so often happens when a team is under pressure, they counter with a rapid surge upfield and that’s exactly what occurred in the 64th minute, when Chong set-up team-mate Traore to blast United back into the lead.

The hosts could barely believe what had happened because they had looked odds-on to be the next team to score again. And Reading’s troubles were not over for barely three minutes later, the Reds increased the advantage when Chong snapped up a short clearance from Andresson before curling his shot past the hapless custodian.

The icing on the Christmas cake was provided when Dillon Hoogwerf, the two-goal hero of Friday's FA Youth Cup win over Lincoln City, swept in the fourth goal after a stirring run through the centre of the pitch by his Under-18 team-mate and fellow substitute Hannibal Mejbri.
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Dillon Hoogewerf scores United's fourth goal against Reading Under-23s
Watch United's fourth goal, scored by Dillon Hoogewerf.
MATCH DETAILS

United: Kovar; Laird, Taylor (Fish 81), Bernard, Mengi; Galbraith, Helm (Mejbri 75), Puigmal; Chong, Ramazani (Hoogewerf 46), Traore.

Substitutes not used: Carney, McCann.

Goals: United - Puigmal 40, Traore 64, Chong 67, Hoogewerf 90 | Reading - Liddle 45+3.

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