It’s the FA Cup weekend and holders Manchester United will face Championship side Reading at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon.
United, a record twelve time winners of the FA Cup, have finally found their feet in the Premier League. Mourinho’s Red Devils are on a thirteen game unbeaten run, their longest since Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season in charge, including putting together a series of seven wins on the bounce in all competitions. They are not short of confidence and momentum especially on the back of another largely comfortable win against West Ham United at the London Stadium. But with a League Cup semi-final and a league game against Liverpool on the horizon, Mourinho will be expected to field a rotated side and it will be interesting to see if they can keep the results ticking.
Reading on the other hand are managed by Dutch legend Jaap Stam, who played a vital role for United for about three seasons, including the treble win in 1999 will relish the opportunity to take his high flying side to Old Trafford in hope of causing a massive upset and lay down the marker in terms of establishing his managerial credentials. Asked about his return to Manchester, he said,
I’m not expecting anything [from the match], to be fair. It would be nice to have a warm welcome. I had a great time over there. I’ve loved the fans, the club. It was a very important period in my career. I haven’t been back in an occasion like this. So it’s good to be back, it’s good to play over there. But it’s not about me, it’s about the team goes there and hopefully we can be a surprise.
The Royals are third in the Championship with 46 points and are in decent form themselves – four wins in the last six games. But having lost two of their last four games on the road scoring 6 and conceding 11, they will do very well to knock out the current holders in their own backyard.
The Red Devils will definitely be without centre-half Eric Bailly, who has joined the Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations, while Michael Carrick should be back in contention following a recent illness. Jose Mourinho is expected to rest some big names to bring them back in the fold, fresher for the EFL Cup Semi-final first leg against Hull City at Old Trafford.
For Jaap Stam’s Reading, Stephen Quinn and Deniss Rakels remain sidelined.
- Manchester United 1 (Rooney) Reading 0, Premier League, March 2013
- Manchester United 2 (Hernandez, Nani) Reading 1 (McAnuff), FA Cup, February 2013
- Reading 3 (Robson-Kanu, Le Fondre, Morrison) Manchester United 4 (Anderson, Rooney 2, van Persie), Premier League, December 2012
Marcus Rashford – Manchester United
This game is made for the 19-year old sensation. Rashford has had a remarkable 2016, his rise has been meteoric right from his debut for Man United in the Europa League to the two substitute appearances in the European Championships in France for England. But with the arrival of Ibrahimovic, Rashford has been sidelined for the right reasons but he has still been able to come on and prove himself invaluable in crunch situations including last week when he set up Juan Mata for the opening goal. But with him expected to lead the line again against Reading, all eyes will be on the forward to add to his tally of 4 this season and force himself back into Mourinho’s plans.
Garath McCleary – Reading
Reading may well have an outside chance of getting a result at Old Trafford with their emphasis on keeping the ball (they average the highest percentage of possession in the Championship) with players like McCleary who has been prolific this season. The 29-year old has scored or assisted 13 goals with the majority coming from the right flank and has been their best player alongside forward Kermorgant. And with Manchester United potentially fielding a second string side, it is imperative that Reading take advantage of any hiccup that the home side may experience through their most in form player McCleary.
Manchester United, with their impressive form in cup competitions this season, should progress to the next round without much hassle.
Manchester United 4-1 Reading