Manchester United welcome Reading to Old Trafford in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday afternoon and are favourites to see past their Championship opposition to progress to the next stage of the competition.
United, who are the current cup holders, are in fine form of late after a real resurgence due to a tactical shift by Jose Mourinho. However, the Royals are also enjoying a positive season under Jaap Stam – a former Manchester United defender – and are sure to put on a performance for the television cameras which could mean this weekend’s clash at Old Trafford is no foregone conclusion.
United are enjoying their best domestic run of form for some time with six consecutive wins under their belt ahead of their visit of Reading.
In all competitions, The Red Devils haven’t lost a game since early November, and Mourinho’s men haven’t been beaten in England since October. Nine wins and three draws from their last 12 will strike some fear into Reading, especially given Manchester United are making light work of their opposition at Old Trafford.
From their last seven home games in all competitions, United have won five and drawn two, picking up points to Arsenal and Tottenham in the process.
Reading know they’re in for a difficult encounter this weekend as a result, but they come into Saturday’s FA Cup clash boasting three consecutive wins in the Championship.
The Royals have suffered just two defeats in all competitions since October so they may not lie down at Old Trafford. One achilles heel with Reading, however, has been their away form and poor defensive record.
They have proven to be an attacking and exciting side to watch, but it turn are conceding goals at an alarming rate.
Despite being third in the Championship table, Reading have conceded more goals than they’ve scored away from home this season and might struggle to contain an in-form United over 90 minutes.
The home side have been at their best the last month, blowing teams away and averaging more than two goals per game for a number of weeks. Jose Mourinho’s side have scored two or more in each of their last five outings so a Reading side with the worst defensive record in the top-seven of the Championship table are sure to suffer against the holders.
Away from home, Reading have shown vulnerability which could ultimately see them eliminated.
The Royals have conceded 11 goals in their last four away games in the Championship, losing twice, and come into Saturday’s clash at Old Trafford having failed to keep a clean sheet since November.
Nevertheless, domestic form can be misleading going into a cup clash as shown in the past, and they are sure to be told by manager Jaap Stam how much it means to the fans and club to perform a giant killing in the competition.
Reading know they are the underdogs so they aren’t likely to leave themselves too exposed as they have done in the league of late. It’s still hard to see anything less than the FA Cup holders progressing this weekend, however.