Manager-less Reading have lost every one of their last five games, and caretaker manager Eamonn Dolan will struggle to change that against a Manchester United side that have barely broken sweat in all-but securing the Premier League title. United have not lost a single league game since November, and have won every league game since January. Furthermore, they have won every game at Old Trafford save one – a defeat to Spurs in September. A United win and a City loss this weekend would see United go 15 points clear at the top of the table.
A win for Reading here would make for a cushioned landing for Brian McDermott’s successor, and bring them to within one point of Aston Villa if QPR win at Villa Park. It would also inject much-needed self-belief into a team which must be somewhat downtrodden by the events of the last week, and the poor form that preceded it. Manchester United, while dominant in the league, may have been shaken by results in the F.A. Cup, where complacency allowed Chelsea to take the tie to a replay, and in the Champions League, where United were beaten by Real Madrid at home to send them out before the Quarter Finals, since their last league match.
Pavel Pogrebnyak will serve the last match of his suspension for Reading, having been sent off for a dangerous challenge against Wigan three weeks ago. Reading will need Adam Le Fondre, who has ten goals so far this season, to find form in Pogrebnyak’s absence. In December, Reading scored three against United in a 4-3 defeat, showing that they have the attacking resources to pose a threat to the United defence. Finding form in such a turbulent week, and holding back United’s formidable attack, will be a very difficult task however.
KICK-OFF: Saturday, 5.30pm
PAST THREE MEETINGS…
Man Utd 2 (Nani, Hernandez) Reading 1 (McAnuff), FA Cup, February 2013
Reading 3 (Robson-Kanu, Le Fondre, Morrison) Man Utd 4 (Anderson, Rooney 2, Van Persie), Premier League, December 2012
Reading 0 Man Utd 2 (Rooney, Ronaldo), Premier League, January 2008
If United win six more matches (including this one), even if City win every game, they will win the title three games before the end of the season.
United have hit more than 60% of their shots on target this season, second only to Tottenham in the league.
Reading have hit just over 50% on target, leaving them bottom of the league.
With 56 goals against, Reading have conceded the most goals in the Premier League this season.
With 68 goals for, United have scored the most goals in the Premier League this season. The next highest are Chelsea and Liverpool, with 56.
United have won more 6 more games than any other team in the Premier League. They are bottom of the league for draws, with 2.
Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney have scored 3 more goals this season than the entire Reading team.
Man Utd to win: 0.11
Reading to win: 18.00
TV: Live on ESPN at 5.30pm. Highlights on BBC1 at 10.30pm.
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