Manchester United will look to seal a spot in the FA Cup fifth round when they host Reading at Old Trafford on Saturday.
The FA Cup resumes this weekend with the fourth round, with the latest stage kicking off with the blockbuster game between Manchester City and Arsenal on Friday. And the action on Saturday will end at Old Trafford, where Manchester United will lock horns with Reading.
The 2022/23 season started in the worst way possible for Manchester United, who lost back-to-back games at the campaign’s onset. But the Red Devils have barely faced defeat in the five months since then, rising through the standings in the Premier League. At the same time, they have reached the Carabao Cup semi-finals. And they reached FA Cup fourth round after beating Everton 3-1 at Old Trafford.
On the other hand, Reading reached the fourth round of the FA Cup by beating Watford 2-0 in the previous stage. But the Royals have blown hot and cold in the EFL Championship, losing 13 of their 28 games thus far. And the latest setback was a 4-0 defeat to Stoke City, dropping them to 14th on the table.
Manchester United and Reading last met in the FA Cup third round four years ago, with the Red Devils clinching a 2-0 win. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides.
Team News & Tactics
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 27, 2023
Erik ten Hag does not have a new roster issue hampering his preparations ahead of his side’s latest fixture. Against Reading on Saturday, the Manchester United manager will be bereft of the services of five first-team players.
Anthony Martial (thigh) and Diogo Dalot (hamstring) are the most notable absentees. And the duo will unlikely be fit enough to start against Reading this weekend. In addition, Axel Tuanzebe (match fitness) and Donny van de Beek (knee) remain on the sidelines. And while ten Hag’s latest update for Jadon Sancho is promising, the Englishman might not be ready to feature yet.
Picking the goalkeeper will be a tricky call for ten Hag. But Jack Butland, on loan from Crystal Palace, should start ahead of Tom Heaton this weekend. And Manchester United will line up in a 4-3-3 formation in front of the English shot-stopper.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Tyrell Malacia will retain their spots as the full-backs, with Dalot still injured and Shaw doubtful to feature. Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire should pair up at the heart of the Manchester United defence. So Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez will earn some rest.
As for the midfield unit, Kobbie Mainoo should make his second start for Manchester United after making his first-team debut against Charlton Athletic in the Carabao Cup. The 17-year-old will likely join Scott McTominay and Fred in the middle of the park.
Wout Weghorst has started the last few games and might drop to the bench as ten Hag looks to rest the regulars. So Anthony Elanga should feature as the makeshift striker, with Facundo Pellistri and Alejandro Garnacho being the two wide attackers.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Butland; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Malacia; Mainoo, McTominay, Fred; Pellistri, Elanga, Garnacho
Like his counterpart in the Manchester United dugout, Paul Ince has a gamut of fitness issues to deal with ahead of the trip to Old Trafford. The Reading manager will be without six first-team players on Saturday.
Sam Hutchinson (Achilles), Liam Moore (hamstring), Naby Sarr (knee), Dejan Tetek (leg), and Andy Carroll (ankle) are in the treatment room. In addition, Ovie Ejaria might not feature as he is not a part of Ince’s plans.
— Reading FC (@ReadingFC) January 26, 2023
Joe Lumley will likely take his place between the sticks, with Reading lining up in a 3-5-2 formation in front of him. Scott Dann, Tom Holmes and Tom McIntyre will likely form the central defensive unit. The trio will aim to keep things tight at the back, looking to neutralise the Manchester United attack.
Abdul-Rahman Baba and captain Andy Yiadom should be the two wing-backs. And the duo will often drop deep to form a back five to cut out the passing lanes. And the wing-backs will also provide width in the final third when the opportunities present themselves.
Mamadou Loum will sit at the base of the Reading midfield, looking to shore up the things in the middle of the park. Jeff Hendrick and Tyrese Fornah will join Loum in the centre of the pitch. And the duo will be the workhorses for the visitors. Finally, Tom Ince and Lucas Joao should form the strike partnership for the Royals.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Lumley; Dann, Holmes, McIntyre; Yiadom, Hendrick, Loum, Fornah, Baba; Ince, Joao
- Manchester United have progressed from nine of their 10 FA Cup ties against Reading, only failing in the third round in the 1926/27 season.
- Reading have won just one of their 22 matches against Manchester United in all competitions (D7 L14), losing the last six in a row. Their only victory over the Red Devils was in January 1927 in a second replay at the third round stage of the FA Cup, a game played at Villa Park.
- Manchester United are unbeaten in their last 14 home games in the FA Cup (W12 D2) since a 2-1 defeat to Arsenal in 2015. They have lost just one of their last 39 home games against teams from outside the top flight (W31 D7), a 1-0 defeat to Leeds United in January 2010.
- Reading have lost seven of their last eight FA Cup matches against Premier League opponents, the other being a 3-1 home win over West Bromwich Albion in February 2016.
- Marcus Rashford has been involved in five goals in his last five FA Cup appearances (two goals, three assists). His only brace in the competition came against Reading in January 2017.
Player to Watch
Garnacho has been the find of the season for Manchester United, with the 18-year-old going from strength to strength with each passing outing. And with games coming thick and fast in the second half of the 2022/23 campaign, the teenage prodigy will see his importance increase.
The youngster’s superb performances have also helped him earn a bumper new contract from the Red Devils. But Garnacho will be focused on continuing to make his mark for Manchester United. And Reading will give him another opportunity to make a lasting impact on Erik ten Hag and the club’s fanbase.
Manchester United 3-0 Reading
The luck of the draw has favoured Manchester United in the cup competitions thus far this season. And the game against Reading offers Erik ten Hag the opportunity to rest and rotate his troops. But despite playing a second-string team, Manchester United should be too strong for Reading.
The Royals have been extremely inconsistent and do not have enough quality to upset Manchester United. In addition, the visitors have been the second-worst travellers in the EFL Championship. So the signs are not bright for Paul Ince and his charges. And The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-0 win for Manchester United.