Manchester United host Jaap Stam and his Reading side for the third round of the FA Cup as Jose Mourinho looks to continue the winning run.

Manchester United are right back in the race for at least the second place, if not the title. Jose Mourinho would not admit to it but six wins on the trot has seen the Red Devils close the gap from second-placed Liverpool to just five points.

Reading have also found stability and momentum under the tutelage of United legend Jaap Stam. The Royals sit pretty at third place on the Championship table, six points off an automatic promotion place and eight off the top spot.

Stam spent three years at Manchester United and was a part of the famous treble-winning side. The Dutchman is hailed as a Red Devils legend and is likely to get a massive reception as he returns to Old Trafford.

The Hard Tackle takes a look at all the news revolving around the FA Cup third round fixture against Reading.

Team News & Tactics

Manchester United FC

Jose Mourinho was ecstatic in his pre-match conference as he confirmed that Manchester United have no injury issues. Of the 27 players in the first-team squad, 26 of them are available for selection, with Eric Bailly, who is away at African Cup of Nations (AFCoN), the only absentee.

But the Portuguese is set to make multiple changes to the starting eleven with the aim of giving some of the overworked players some much-needed rest. Mourinho has confirmed that club captain Wayne Rooney is set to start against Reading.

Also confirmed to be in the eleven is second-choice goalkeeper Sergio Romero. On the other hand, Mourinho confirmed that Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin, who look set to leave the club, are not a part of the matchday squad.

Bastian Schweinsteiger is named in the squad and is likely to be handed a start, if Mourinho decides to rest any of his key midfield options ahead of the crucial League Cup Semi-final first-leg against Hull City and the Premier League fixture against Liverpool.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Romero; Fosu-Mensah, Smalling, Rojo, Shaw; Schweinsteiger, Fellaini, Pogba; Martial, Rooney, Rashford

Reading FC

Jaap Stam returns to Old Trafford, albeit as a manager of the opposition as he takes his high-flying Reading side to face Manchester United in the third round of the FA Cup.

Cultured midfielder Stephen Quinn and forward Deniss Rakels are the only players unavailable for the trip, which is unlikely to affect Stam much as the duo has not seen much involvement in the first eleven.

Stam is likely to put forward his best eleven as he looks to mark his return to Old Trafford with a win while also continuing his side’s momentum. Stam isn’t the only one bracing for a return to their former club, though, with Paul McShane and Tyler Blackett all set to do the same.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Al-Habsi; Gunter, McShane, Moore, Blackett; Danny Williams, George Evans; McCleary, Swift, Beerens; Kermorgant

Key Stats

1. Manchester United have advanced from five of their last six third-round FA Cup ties, with a defeat to Swansea in the 2013-14 edition the only occasion they didn’t.

2. Reading last won an FA Cup tie against Manchester United in 1927 and have since lost six and drawn two of their outings.

3. Juan Mata has scored in each of Manchester United’s last three FA Cup matches.

4. United are unbeaten in their last 24 FA Cup matches against oppositions from the second tier, with their last defeat coming in the 1981-82 edition to Watford.

5. Manchester United come into the game unbeaten in their last 13 fixtures in all competitions, with 3 draws and 10 wins to their name.

Prediction

Manchester United FC 3 – 2 Reading FC

Manchester United have to rotate, which means the Red Devils are likely to take time in finding their rhythm, which could provide an opening for Reading to exploit. And, as the cup competitions in England have taught us, even the best can be taken by surprise.

The duo is set to be key for the third round. (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

The duo is set to be key for the third round. (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

The Red Devils will have to endure a tough time but we are tipping for Jaap Stam to miss out narrowly on his return to his old hunting ground. Marcus Rashford is tipped to be one of the goalscorers in the match.

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