Manchester United are heavy odds-on at 1/5 with the bookies to avoid an upset when they welcome Championship side Reading to Old Trafford in the third round of the FA Cup this weekend (12.30pm Saturday, BT Sport 2).
United men have turned a corner in the last few weeks, with Monday’s 2-0 victory over West Ham United – given to them by second-half strikes from Juan Mata and Zlatan Ibrahimovic – making it six wins in a row in the Premier League.
When other competitions are taken into account, the Red Devils have not been beaten in their last 13 outings, a run which stretches back to a 2-1 defeat by Fenerbahce in the Europa League at the start of November. Questions were asked about whether Jose Mourinho was past his best earlier in the season, but his side’s performances and results in recent weeks show that the Portuguese remains one of the best managers around.
Reading are managed by former United centre-back Jaap Stam, who made 127 competitive appearances for the club before Sir Alex Ferguson sold him to Lazio in the summer of 2001. Six points is all that separates the Berkshire outfit from the top two in the Championship at present. They also have a game in hand on the side directly above them, Rafael Benitez’s Newcastle United. Stam is targeting promotion to the top tier of English football in his first year as a manager. While the Dutchman would love to cause an upset at the home of his former employers in the FA Cup, his primary focus this term will be guiding the Royals out of the second division.
Mourinho should have Wayne Rooney (pictured) and Luke Shaw available after their respective injury lay-offs, but Eric Bailly has now departed to join up with the Ivory Coast ahead of the start of the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon next week. The Red Devils boss is likely to shuffle his pack after the hectic festive schedule in the Premier League, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Ibrahimovic and Michael Carrick among those players who will probably drop out. Mata and Marcus Rashford impressed in cameo appearances against West Ham and could be included in the line-up, while back-up goalkeeper Sergio Romero may be called upon for the fifth time in the 2016/17 campaign.
Reading are set to be without Callum Harriott (hamstring), Stephen Quinn (knee) and Deniss Rakels (ankle), but Jordan Obita could return to the starting XI after appearing off the substitutes’ bench in the triumph over Bristol City last time out. Captain and central defender Paul McShane has shaken off a hand injury and will feature from the start, while winger Garath McCleary will be looking to add to the eight goals and five assists he has contributed to his side’s efforts so far this season.
Our Preview’s Man Utd v Reading Betting Tips Conclusion
Reading are having a fine season in the second tier and could be playing Man Utd in the Premier League next term, but on this occasion it is difficult to envisage them coming away with a positive result.
Even if Mourinho rotates his side, the hosts will still have several seasoned internationals to call upon, and that should be enough to get them over the line. This could be a low-scoring affair, though. Mourinho’s biggest strength as a manager has always been his ability to shut games down when his team are ahead. So consider putting your money behind a United triumph with under 2.5 goals netted in total. That option offers a value 11/4 bet opportunity while an outright win is prohibitively short at 1/5. This could also be the afternoon when Wayne Rooney becomes the club’s all-time record scorer. Back the England captain to find the net at any time against Stam’s side on Saturday.
These are this match preview’s Man Utd v Reading FA Cup betting tips: