Old Trafford, Manchester
March 16, 17:30 GMT
After a bit of a downward spiral, Man United would look to get their season back on track as they welcome relegation favorites Reading. Back to back poor results against Madrid and Chelsea have put serious doubts over United’s aspiration of winning multiple silverware this term; hence this weekend is crucial in terms of regaining some of that lost confidence. Reading on the other hand have just lost their manager and look to be sinking fast. The defeat against Villa at home could perhaps serve as the final nail in the coffin and things could turn ugly against a hungry Man United outfit.
Although United are in midst of a mini crisis, they remain overwhelming favorites to win back their league crown. The twelve point cushion over City must calm nerves but Fergie’s men must not be complacent and look to regain their mojo. United look a bit jaded and at this juncture of the league campaign need some freshness in the squad to kick them back to life. Sir Alex will shake things up to reignite United’s season and launch another assault that would surely bring home an unprecedented title number twenty.
Brian McDermott’s departure shocked the Reading dressing room to its core and the club is still reeling from the after effects. Eamonn Dolan has been handed over the reins till the end of the season and one suspects that the Royals will be back in the Championship next term. The trip to Old Trafford is followed by another daunting away day at the Emirates and at this stage of the season three consecutive defeats would surely seal their fate, especially as the teams around the bottom have started to pick up a few points. Nevertheless, Reading might benefit in the short term by the new manager syndrome but that is perhaps the only silver lining in the otherwise gloomy affairs at the Madejski.
Team News & Tactical Brief
In the Premier League, Fergie’s men have been sensational to say the least and look to be heading towards a historic season points wise. The lead is handsome and looks insurmountable but one can’t count City just yet. Nevertheless United will surely be eyeing an improvement in their performance levels after the shambolic second half display against Chelsea in the FA Cup. On the injury front Paul Scholes hasn’t featured in the match day squad for the last two months while Nani sustained an injury in the game against Chelsea. Other than those two, Red Devils have a huge roster of players to choose from and Sir Alex would surely bring in some fresh legs.
Expect RVP and Rooney to start in attack while Ashley Young and Kagawa could be playing on the wings owing to Valencia’s poor form and Nani’s recent injury scare. Danny Welbeck could also be called up at either wing or up top. In midfield Carrick is a certainty as the Englishman has been sensational lately. Ryan Giggs could be given a rare start in the middle or the enigmatic Anderson might get a look in if the manager feels the Brazilian has fully recovered from his injury woes.
At the back Vidic should come back and along with Evans form the center back pairing. Rafael could be given a well deserved break if Phil Jones recovers and is deemed match fit. Patrice Evra will be the left back for the Red Devils in all probability. Fergie’s men would definitely take the game to the visitors and look to finish off their chances which could see them rest key players and get the squad involved. The likes of Anderson and Young, if they get a look in, would have to come to the party and grab this opportunity to cement a place in the first eleven.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-4-1-1): De Gea; Rafael, Evans, Vidic, Evra; Kagawa, Carrick, Giggs, Young; Rooney; van Persie
Brian McDermott’s sacking could perhaps be the final straw for the Royals who have suffered four consecutive defeats and are the overwhelming favorites to go down. 48 points separate Reading from Man United and the next four games include United, Arsenal and Liverpool. To add to the gloom Reading will be without the services of striker Pavel Pogrebnyak, who will serve the last of his three match ban. Also missing from action will be goalkeepers Adam Federici and Alex McCarthy while midfielders Guthrie and Kebe are also likely to miss out. Veteran striker Jason Roberts is unlikely to feature as well owing to a knee injury.
Reading will look to defend deep and bring out the proverbial parked bus to make United earn the three points. Le Fondre has a knack of scoring from the bench but the striker will be isolated at the top and must feed of scraps. Hence it will be the midfield that will have to work their socks off to give their team a chance to take anything from Old Trafford. Robson-Kanu and McAnuff are expected to be the wide men while Akpan, Leigertwood and Karacan are likely to be pitted against United’s two central midfielders. They will try to hurry their counterparts as Chelsea did to brilliant effect in the FA cup game last weekend.
Although the defence has not been performing upto the desired levels in recent games, all cannot be blamed upon them as the Royals have simply not defended as a unit. The central defensive partnership of Mariappa and Pearce could be trusted again under the new management while Harte and Kelly are also expected to keep their positions as full-backs.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-5-1): Taylor; Kelly, Pearce, Mariappa, Harte; Robson-Kanu, Karacan, Leigertwood, Akpan, McAnuff; Le Fondre
- Van Persie has failed to score in the last six games.
- David De Gea is set to make his 50th appearance for the Red Devils in the league.
- The Royals have lost 12 of their last 18 league games.
- Reading have managed to win just five points away from home in the league all season making them the worst travelers on the road in the division.
Player To Watch Out For
Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United)
The Japanese scored a clinical hat trick in his previous league appearance and seemed to be gelling into the side. Kagawa hasn’t been at his best yet for the Red Devils but all indications suggest that the former Dortmund player could be coming into his own at the Theatre of Dreams. With all other players being off the boil lately, Kagawa could provide the much needed spark at this stage of the season for the Red Devils.
Manchester United 3-1 Reading
United should win this handsomely after minor hiccups in recent games. Reading look lost and even the new manager syndrome might not save Reading from a Royal beating at Old Trafford.