Manchester United begin the defence of their FA Cup crown on Saturday, as they welcome Reading to Old Trafford. It is difficult to predict exactly what kind of team Jose Mourinho will field against the Championship side, however with the Reds in EFL Cup action the following Tuesday – a competition in which the United boss has fielded a strong side this season – it is likely that some rotation will be seen within the side on Saturday. Reading comes into this game as somewhat of an unknown quantity for most United fans, although they should not be taken lightly. Jaap Stam seems to have that Reading side singing his tune, with nine wins in their last 12 Championship games.
Wayne Rooney vs Liam Moore
After a spell on the sidelines for United, with Zlatan likely to be rested for the EFL Cup on Tuesday and Mourinho stating that Rooney is nearing a return, it looks likely that the England captain will step into the side on Saturday. With the ex-Everton man nearing Sir Bobby Charlton’s goal scoring record, despite his mixed form of late, Moore will likely find a man inspired when the two clash at the weekend. However, since his move from Leicester over the summer, Moore has been in fine form himself. The Reading captain seems to possess the qualities to match Wayne Rooney. The United man looks to drop off of his man and find spaces around his centre-half, while this would appear to suit Moore, who’s strongest assets seem to lie in his anticipation and reading of the game, with 26.2% of his defensive actions this season being interceptions or blocks. This match up could prove both interesting and crucial.
Paul Pogba vs George Evans
Paul Pogba is slowly but surely proving his doubters wrong and showing his class in the Premier League. It is difficult to find an occasion in the last ten weeks where the Frenchman has had a poor game. The times Pogba has been seen to put in a poor showing has been only by the incredibly high standards he has set himself, not compared to any other midfielder in the league. No midfielder would relish taking on United’s number 6 in the engine room currently. The man tasked with that on Saturday will likely be Manchester City loanee, George Evans. Evans plays as both a centre-half and in midfield, so is likely to provide a sterner physical test than most in midfield, although taking on the specimen that is Paul Pogba is a different reality entirely.
Juan Mata vs Tyler Blackett
Having impressed in his last two appearances coming off of the bench for United and Mkhitaryan likely getting a rest in anticipation of Tuesday’s game, expect Juan Mata to start on the right-hand side for United on Saturday. Mata has been in fine form for United when he has played this term and can consider himself desperately unlucky to see himself on the bench as often as he does. The man who will be trying to thwart the Spanish international will be former Red Tyler Blackett. Since leaving the Theatre of Dreams permanently in the summer, he has nailed down a place in Japan Stam’s side. Manchester-born Blackett possesses immense physical presence and works tirelessly for the team. Juan Mata will pose difference challenges for him than he is used to in the Championship, looking to drag him out of position to slip the overlapping full back in rather than looking to take Blackett on, one on one. The former United man will need to remain astute to the crafty Spaniard if he wants to avoid a nightmare return to Old Trafford.