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Four Players to Watch: Manchester United v Reading

On the face of matters, Manchester United has been handed a relatively easy FA Cup draw. Playing host to a Championship side, United ultimately could’ve done much worse in finding a tricky away trip. However, Reading presents a challenge bigger than one would expect- they sit third in the Championship table, making them comparable to the lower-end teams in the Premier League, and they are managed by Jaap Stam, a United great who will anticipate returning to Old Trafford. United needs to rotate the squad ahead of an incredibly important clash with Liverpool, but there is no guarantee of success in this match, and so, Jose Mourinho must be wary.

Tyler Blackett, Left-Back, Reading

The first youth player to break into Manchester United’s first team under Louis van Gaal was a player named Tyler Blackett, and he did well for more than a few games until he was sent off in United’s famous 5-3 loss at the King Power Stadium. Normally a left-back, Blackett found his home in the United side from the left of Van Gaal’s back three, and he looked impressive on the ball- but a reintroduction to the side at left-back ended in a few very poor performances, and it was determined he wouldn’t be good enough for United.

After an unsuccessful loan spell at Celtic, Stam decided he would snap Blackett up from his former club and he has been playing at left-back for Reading ever since. Blackett was known around Carrington for his dedication to training, and it will be good to see him on the pitch at Old Trafford again, even if he couldn’t make it at the club.

Yann Kermorgant, Striker, Reading

Reading’s best player in the Championship is Yann Kermorgant, their veteran striker in search for promotion. Aged 35, Kenmorgant has been one of the best players in the Championship this season, as shown by his inclusion in WhoScored’s Championship team of the season so far. With seven goals and two assists in the Championship this season, Kermorgant will be Reading’s greatest threat to United’s defence. Winning 5.7 aerial duels every game, Kermorgant’s form of presence is obvious, and considering Chris Smalling will likely be in the side, this duel could be the most important on the pitch.

Chris Smalling, Central Defender, Manchester United

Smalling’s incredible rise, that saw him change from a struggling squad member to United’s third captain, was a sight to watch over the course of Louis van Gaal’s tenure at the club. However, under Jose Mourinho, Smalling completely regressed to his former self, with questions around his ability to defend when the side isn’t imbalanced defensively like Van Gaal’s was. Smalling struggles on the ball, and always did, which means he struggles alongside a partner in the mould of Eric Bailly, and he will need to improve his defending if he is going to be useful to United at all. With Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo set to start against Liverpool, Smalling should be rotated into the side against Reading, and it will be his chance to impress.

Wayne Rooney, Striker, Manchester United

Rooney isn’t an exciting player to watch at United anymore, and he might not even be a United player next season, but he was an incredible player and this match could represent a great chance for the Englishman to break Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time scoring record at Manchester United. With Mourinho set to rotate the squad, Rooney will hopefully come in as a midfielder in United’s 4-3-3, replacing Paul Pogba on the side. Rooney needs just two more goals before his legacy as a Manchester United player is left, and perhaps scoring his 250th goal for the club against Reading will give him the perfect half-season swansong.

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