Manchester United start the defence of their FA Cup crown when they welcome Championship high-flyers Reading to Old Trafford on Saturday. The Reds lifted the trophy for a record-equaling 12th time when they saw off Crystal Palace 2-1 via extra-time in last year’s final at Wembley. Jose Mourinho’s men have enjoyed an excellent festive period and now find themselves 13 games unbeaten in all competitions, having won seven on the bounce heading into the third round tie.
There’s a return to Old Trafford for former Reds defender Jaap Stam who is now in charge of the Royals having taken his first managerial job in June of last year. Reading currently sit third in the Championship, six points behind the automatic promotion spots, however, do boast a game in hand following their abandonment against Fulham last Friday due to fog. Stam’s men have only lost twice in their last ten outings, winning the other eight games!
There aren’t many things that connect these two teams although there are a few to go at, starting with the obvious, Jaap Stam.
Stam joined Manchester United in 1998 from Dutch side PSV Eindhoven, the £10.6 million paid for his services made him the most expensive defender at the time as well as the most expensive Dutchman ever. He spent three years at United, winning three league titles before departing on bad terms following the release of his ‘Head to Head’ autobiography. Ferguson allowed Stam to join Italian side Lazio in the summer of 2001, a decision that the Scotsman said he later regretted. The Dutchman ended his career in 2007 following stints at AC Milan and Ajax before taking his first managerial job at the Madejski Stadium last summer.
Englishman Neil Webb started his career at hometown club Reading in 1980. A midfielder by trade, he scored 22 goals in 72 appearances for the Royals before joining Portsmouth two years later. Webb spent three years at Fratton Park before moving to Nottingham Forest where he caught the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United in 1989. He scored on his league debut for the Reds, however, missed six months of action due to injury early on in his United career. Webb won the FA Cup, the League Cup as well as the European Cup Winners’ Cup and European Super Cup in 1991. He rejoined Forest in 1992 before hanging up his boots in 1997.
Born in Manchester, Blackett joined the Reds youth academy as an eight-year-old and signed his first professional contract with the club aged 18. He enjoyed short loan spells at Championship sides Blackpool and Birmingham City during the 2013/14 campaign and was selected to go on tour with the Reds prior to the 2014/15 season under the new management of Louis van Gaal. He made his debut for the club in the opening game of the 14/15 season, a 2-1 home defeat to Swansea City. Blackett went on to make a further 11 appearances for United that season and was loaned north of the border to Celtic ahead of the 15/16 campaign however he was recalled to Old Trafford following a number of injuries to first team players. Last summer, the Englishman took the plunge and left the Theatre of Dreams on a permanent basis in search of regular first team football. He joined up with former United player Jaap Stam at Championship side Reading where he is pretty much a guaranteed starter at left-back.