Ole Gunnar Solskjaer joined Sir Matt Busby in winning his first five matches at the Manchester United helm, but the caretaker manager conceded the FA Cup win against Reading flattered his side.
The post-Jose Mourinho era continued with a fifth successive win on Saturday afternoon, when Juan Mata’s spot-kick was followed by a composed Romelu Lukaku finish in the first half of their third-round tie.
The 2-0 victory against Reading secured Solskjaer’s place in the United history books, yet it was their most unconvincing display to date.
The decision to make nine changes saw the home side toil against the well-drilled Royals and the Norwegian held his hands up afterwards.
“It was always going be difficult with my team selection,” interim boss Solskjaer said.
“I made it hard for the players to be fair on them because it’s a team that’s never played together.
“Some players like Matteo (Darmian) played out of position but I thought he was excellent. Reading made it really difficult for us.
“We never had a kick the first five minutes, they just kept possession and we weren’t cohesive enough in the pressing.
“That happens when you don’t have a team that doesn’t plays together as much. We didn’t have too much time to work.
“The pleasing thing is we’re through and it’s another clean sheet. 2-0 flatters us because I think they played some great stuff, then again we could have had three or four towards the end.
“The second goal was excellent with Alexis (Sanchez) getting Romelu in. Individual quality managed to get us through.”
The video assistant referee’s intervention led to the opening goal from Mata, although the lengthy delay and lack of communication inside Old Trafford highlighted the issues that still need resolving.
“From where I sat it was a clear penalty, so I didn’t need VAR there,” Solskjaer said.
“But then they were probably checking if it was offside or not, probably was. Well done by Juan, he gets the ball down and the penalty was well struck.
Solskjaer’s squad hot-footed it to the airport after the game, with the side heading to Dubai for a warm-weather training camp ahead of next Sunday’s return to Premier League action at Tottenham.
Sanchez will need treatment ahead of the trip to Wembley, with the forward’s first start under the Norwegian ending with a hamstring issue flaring up.
“How was Alexis? Hopefully OK,” he said.
“He was feeling his hamstring, but he should have told me one minute before because I made two subs. Hopefully he’ll be OK for next weekend.
“I think maybe he’s happy that he got through 60 minutes. Hopefully he won’t be too bad.
“He’s been out a month now, he’s had 20 minutes against Newcastle, half an hour maybe. Now he’s had 60 minutes, so it’s about building up again.
“You know the quality he has. I think maybe when he gets another few games under his belt, he would have finished a little bit earlier on in the first half.
“He had one touch too many, could have finished when he was driving through the box, so he’ll be fine.”
While United continue to fight on three fronts, Reading can now focus on their relegation scrap with renewed confidence.
“Looking to the performance, I am very proud of what my players did today,” recently-appointed manager Jose Gomes, looking for his first win, said.
“They showed courage to put our process on the pitch. They press very high, they recovered balls in the offensive midfield. They created goal situations.
“It’s not easy to come from the situation that we are in and show the intensity and courage, and good ideas, positive ideas, positive football.
“So, we should I think have more than double than Man United.
“We get 61 per cent of ball possession. We have four, five corners, they have just one, so we produce.
“Performance but the result is not the same. We didn’t show what we produce.
“It means that it is missing in my team like a killer instinct.”