Manchester United will be looking to extend their 100 percent record under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when they take on Reading FC in the FA Cup.
Manchester United will begin their FA Cup journey this weekend, when they face off against Championship outfit Reading in the third round of the competition at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon.
The Red Devils are on a belligerent run of form, having picked up four wins in a row since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over the reins last month. Most recently, the 20-time English champions defeated Newcastle United 2-0 in the Premier League on Wednesday night, and will be aiming to carry the momentum into the cup competition.
Manchester United made it to the finals of the FA Cup last season, where they were defeated 1-0 by Chelsea. With the Premier League title well out of their reach and a tough draw awaiting in the UEFA Champions League, the FA Cup is the only realistic avenue for the club to get their hands on a trophy and they will be keen on avoiding any mishap on Saturday.
Reading, on the other hand, are struggling in the Championship and are currently 23rd in the standings, having picked up just 20 points from 26 league games so far. The Royals sacked Paul Clement from the managerial post last month and have brought in Jose Gomes to steady the ship, but the Portuguese has drawn one and lost two of his three games in charge.
Reading’s latest fixture ended in a 4-1 mauling at the hands of Swansea City and considering that they are without a victory in their last ten matches, Saturday’s contest against Manchester United will be a huge mountain to climb for the English second division club.
Team News & Tactics
Manchester United are likely to be without midfield mainstay Paul Pogba, who has been in sensational form under Solskjaer, after he seemed to have picked up an injury from a tackle by Jonjo Shelvey during the midweek. Eric Bailly will be serving out the second of his three-match ban, while Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo remain sidelined.
Solskjaer hinted that he will be rotating his troops for the game, following the midweek encounter against Newcastle. In goal, Sergio Romero is in line to make a rare start in place of David De Gea.
Diogo Dalot should feature as the right-back, with Matteo Darmian likely to start on the left, as Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw make way. Phil Jones and Victor Lindelof are likely to hold on to their spots as the two centre-backs though.
Wholesale changes are expected in the middle of the park, with summer signing Fred likely to feature from kick-off along with Andreas Pereira and Marouane Fellaini, both of whom are yet to make a single start under the new manager.
Alexis Sanchez looked sharp coming on from the bench against Newcastle and is expected to replace Anthony Martial on the left, while Romelu Lukaku, who has scored two in two now, should lead the line. 19-year-old prospect Tahith Chong could be in line to make his first-team debut on the right flank for United.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): De Gea; Dalot, Lindelof, Jones, Darmian; Fred, Pereira, Fellaini; Chong, Lukaku, Sanchez;
The visitors will be without the services of Leandro Bacuna and former Manchester United defender Tyler Blackett due to suspensions, while the likes of Paul McShane, Saeid Ezatolahi and Jordan Obita remain long-term injury absentees.
They will, however, welcome back Liam Moore, who was fit enough to make it to the bench for the last game and fellow defender Chris Gunter, who has missed a number of matches recently with a muscular problem. Gomes is likely to set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation at Old Trafford.
No changes are expected in goal with Anssi Jaakkola likely to continue ahead of Sam Walker. Gunter could be set to return at right-back in place of Andy Yiadow, but 20-year-old Omar Richards should hold on to his spot on the left. Former Manchester United defender John O’Shea will pair up with Moore at the heart of the defence.
The 21-year-old Andy Rinomhota has impressed this season with his tenacious nature in the middle of the park and should start as one of the two pivots. Partnering him on Saturday could be Irishman Liam Kelly, who hasn’t made a single appearance under the new manager till date.
Callum Harriott came on from the bench and scored against Swansea on New Year’s Day. He is likely to be rewarded with a start on the right flank while Modou Barrow should hold on to his spot on the opposite side. John Swift is likely to start in the No.10 role, while Jon Dadi Bodvarsson could come in for Yakou Meite as the lone striker.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Jaakkola, Gunter, O’Shea, Moore, Richards; Rinomhota, Kelly; Harriott, Swift, Barrow; Bodvarsson;
- Manchester United are unbeaten in 16 games in all competitions against Reading – winning each of the past five – a run that started in the FA Cup back in January 1936.
- This will be the seventh consecutive season Reading will be starting their FA Cup campaign away from home, winning two, drawing two and losing two of their previous six third-round games.
- Manchester United have lost just one of their 14 FA Cup matches against Reading and are unbeaten against them in the competition since a 1-2 defeat in a second round three replay back in January 1927.
- Since a 1-2 defeat against Swansea in the third round of the 2013-14 FA Cup, Manchester United have won each of their four such games at this stage without conceding a single goal.
Player to Watch
The 25-year-old Belgian superstar seems to have woken up from a stupor that saw him go off the boil towards the end of Jose Mourinho’s reign. Under the new regime, Lukaku has made two appearances from the bench and has found the back of the net in both the matches.
Lukaku has managed to score just eight goals from 24 matches across all competitions this season. With Marcus Rashford firmly establishing himself as Manchester United’s preferred centre-forward after some magnificient displays recently, the game against Reading provides the Belgian a chance to prove himself and get back into the groove.
Manchester United 3-0 Reading
Manchester United are flying high after the recent run of results, that has seen them score fourteen goals and concede just three in four matches. Reading, on the other hand, are struggling to get any positive results at the moment. The Royals won their last match back in November and have since gone 10 games without a victory (D5, L5).
Given the rich vein of form United are in, they should be in for an easy victory on Saturday noon, even if Solskjaer is likely to rest some of his big players for the game.