Manchester United vs Reading
Barclays Premier League – Old Trafford – Saturday 16th March, 2013 – 17:30 KO
Sir Alex Ferguson on the surprise sacking of Reading manager Brian McDermott: “There are some things you can never understand. Football is full of that. To sack Brian McDermott at this time of year was strange to say the least. He was manager of the month in January – I hope I am not manager of the month this month.”
United resume Premier League duties – as well as the last of four successive home matches – with the visit of Reading. After a trying week or so, involving two disappointing – for differing reasons – results, this game may come as somewhat of a relief. While Reading are fighting for their lives, United will surely have to play incredibly poorly (tempting fate, I know) not to pick up the three points.
Nani has been ruled out for the next couple of weeks and so misses this game, while Phil Jones will remain absent with an ankle injury. Everyone else, including recently recalled England centre-back Rio Ferdinand, are fit and available for selection. I say everyone, but Paul Scholes remains conspicuous by his absence. It will be interesting to see how often he features between now and the end of the season. Just putting this out there – will we see him in the United red again?
In terms of Saturday’s XI, having had a full week off, and with another two weeks before Sunderland away (international break), expect to see a near full-strength side fielded. Robin van Persie, who has, to be honest, looked exhausted in recent games, could (should?) be left out. Javier Hernandez, who scored yet another brilliant goal against Chelsea, more than deserves a starting berth. Elsewhere, Nemanja Vidic will likely come back into the side, while Danny Welbeck, on the bench mid-week, should feature. Ryan Giggs will also likely play some role in the game having been given the whole night off for Chelsea’s visit. With centre-midfield options scandalously limited, the Carrick/Cleverley combination (CAC?) should be out in full force.
Predicted United line-up: De Gea, Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Welbeck, Carrick, Cleverley, Young, Rooney, van Persie
Home record: P14 W13 D0 L1 F38 A15 Pts39
Home form: W W W W W W
Home record vs Reading: P8 W5 D3 L0 F16 A7
Caretaker manager Eamonn Dolan on his side’s trip to Old Trafford: “Of course I’m going to be excited to go to Old Trafford, like everyone at Reading. With Sir Alex – they’re the greatest football club in the world, he’s the greatest manager of all time. But I won’t be thinking that tomorrow. It’s business on Saturday and we aim to get a result.”
Reading travel North without a manager. The (somewhat) surprising sacking of Brian McDermott leaves Eamonn Dolan in charge of the Royals for the time being, with a full-time successor not put in place before this weekend’s fixture. The Irishman will be without Jimmy Kebe and Adam Federici through injury, as well as Pavel Pogrebnyak who serves the final game of his three-match suspension. Elsewhere, Jason Roberts (hip) remains out, as does Danny Guthrie (knee) and Alex McCarthy, who has only just started training after long-term injury. The Royals have won just once on the road all season and have lost 8 of the last 9 matches on their travels. Their record at Old Trafford, however, isn’t terrible: 2 draws and 2 single-goal defeats in the last 4. Boyhood United fan Adam Le Fondre top scores for the Royals with 10 goals.
Predicted Reading line-up: Taylor, Kelly, Pearce, Mariappa, Harte, Robson-Kanu, Akpan, Leigertwood, McAnuff, Hunt, Le Fondre
Away record: P14 W1 D2 L11 F12 A27 Pts5
Away form: L L L W L L
Recent meetings at Old Trafford
United 2-1 Reading (18-02-13), United 0-0 Reading (12-08-07), United 1-1 Reading (17-02-07), United 3-2 Reading (30-12-06)
Lee Mason. The 41-year-old has taken charge of 17 Premier League matches this season, dishing out 53 yellow cards and not a single red. He has awarded 3 penalties and last officiated at Old Trafford for January’s 2-1 win over Southampton.
Goals: (United) 68 – (Reading) 35
Conceded: 31 – 56
Top scorer: Robin van Persie (19) – Adam Le Fondre (10)
Assists: Wayne Rooney (9) – Jobi McAnuff (5)
Most shots: Robin van Persie (90) – Adam Le Fondre (47)
Most appearances: Robin van Persie (25/3) – Jobi McAnuff (29)
Completed passes: Carrick (1801) – Leigertwood (866)
Disciplinary: 43 yellows, 0 reds – 35 yellows, 1 red
Average possession: 56.5% – 39.7%
Pass success rate: 85.7% – 69.0%
Reading have lost 8 of their last 9 Premier League away fixtures.
Reading have fewer points after 29 games (23) than in either of their previous Premier League campaigns.
The last time United went three matches without a win was in November 2011, when the Reds drew with Benfica and Newcastle before losing to Crystal Palace. All those games were at Old Trafford.
Sir Alex Ferguson has never lost to Reading.
Wayne Rooney is one goal away from equalling Cristiano Ronaldo’s club-record four goals vs Reading.
Should he start, David de Gea will make his 50th Premier League appearance for Manchester United.
Mark Clattenburg has not refereed a game at Old Trafford since overseeing Manchester City’s 6-1 win there in October 2011. Bad memories, tenuous omen.
Score prediction: United 2-0 Reading