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Preview: Mourinho looking to make Stam’s return an unhappy one

Old Trafford, Manchester

Emirates FA Cup 2016/17

Saturday 7th January 2017 – KO 12:30 [Live on BT Sport]

Referee: Andre Marriner

Assistant Referees: Simon Bennett and Edward Smart

Fourth Official: Graham Scott

Manchester United face Championship side Reading in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday afternoon at Old Trafford in a match which will welcome back two former United players. Jaap Stam, the Reading manager will lead his team out in the lunchtime kick-off, vying to get his side into the fourth round of the domestic competition, knocking the holders out in their first round. It may seem unlikely though with United resurgence this season and the fact they are on a 13 match unbeaten run, winning their last seven matches in a row, six of those in the Premier League. Jose Mourinho’s side is expected to find an easy way to dispatch the Berkshire side, who used to play in the Premier League but are looking for a way back this season, occupying third place in the Championship in their bid for automatic promotion.

United have been boosted with both Wayne Rooney and Luke Shaw being back in training, whether both will be fit enough to play a part against Reading will remain to be seen, but United do face Hull City in the EFL Cup semi-final first leg on Tuesday evening, so fitness issues aside, should see both return for at least that match, ahead of the Liverpool clash in the league a week on Sunday, which will need to see United at their best in order to show Jurgen Klopp’s side that winning at Old Trafford may well be a thing of the past for his side, who have not won at Old Trafford since their 3-0 victory on the 16th March 2014 which was played with David Moyes unknowingly having just over a month left of his tenure at the club. United will need to carry on their good form, working their way back into the top four this season, which is definitely a possibility.

Stam returning to Old Trafford may not be seen as a big deal for some as he has played for the Manchester United Legends teams and also featured at the stadium in various charity matches, but returning in an official capacity since his departure from the club will be good to see. Stam does not like talking about the reasons he left the Theatre of Dreams and neither does Sir Alex Ferguson, especially after clear-the-air-talks happened between the two, who have since buried the hatchet. Stam, speaking about the fallout with Sir Alex Ferguson, which saw him leave the Old Trafford club prematurely and how he and Fergie are both sick and tired of the chatter about it, said:

“I get sick of it, Fergie gets sick of it. United maybe get sick of it sometimes. I talk to the press and sometimes I get a question about what happened, again. You try to give a decent answer, but they always try to find a way of making it interesting. I’m not focusing on what happened when I was a player, or what the papers say. It’s not going to be an emotional return in the sense I’m going to be crying. It’s nice to go back. I love the club, I love the fans and I had a great time there. But this game is not about me, it’s about Reading facing Manchester United at Old Trafford. People don’t need to write about me, they need to write about the team and what they can do against such big opponents.”

Manchester United Form: WWWWW

West Ham United 2-0 W, Middlesbrough 2-1 W, Sunderland 3-1 W, West Bromwich Albion 2-0 W, Crystal Palace 2-1 W

Manchester United are in some fine form heading into 2017 winning their last six Premier League matches, seven matches in all competitions and also being on a 13 match unbeaten run. The start of the season was a good one for United, but problem reared their heads, things were down and then up again. United seem to have recovered from the problems really well, starting a run at the best possible time. Retaining the Emirates FA Cup will be one of the targets this season, ensuring the club wins at least one trophy. It is very much possible that trophies do finish the season at the Theatre of Dreams with United still fighting on all four fronts, with work to do in the league, although that is unlikely right now being ten points from the top of the league, but anything can happen in football.

Reading Form: WWWLW

Bristol City 3-2 W, Norwich City 3-1 W, Blackburn Rovers 3-2 W, Leeds United 2-0 L, Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 W

Reading has had a good start to the season under the guidance of former Manchester United defender Jaap Stam. His side has played 24 matches in the Championship this season, winning 14, drawing four and losing six. Reading sits in third place in the league, six points clear of Derby County who are seventh meaning they have a good chance of finishing in a play-off position this season, providing their form in the league does not drop. In their last three matches, Reading have won, scoring three goals in each game. In their last five matches, Reading have won four and lost once, which is some great form, but their work will be cut out against this resurgent Manchester United side, who I doubt will have many changes in order to keep momentum this season.

Manchester United Top Scorers:

18 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 6 – Juan Mata, Paul Pogba, 5 – Anthony Martial, 4 – Marcus Rashford, 3 – Jesse Lingard, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Wayne Rooney, 1 – Daley Blind, Michael Carrick, Own Goal, Ander Herrera, Chris Smalling

Reading Top Scorers:

8 – Garath McCleary, 7 – Yann Kermorgant, 5 – Roy Beerens, 4 – John Swift, 3 – Callum Harriott, Danny Williams, 2 – George Evans, Paul McShane, Dominic Samuel, 1 – Chris Gunter, Liam Kelly, Liam Moore, Stephen Quinn, Joey van den Berg

Manchester United Squad;

Manager: Jose Mourinho

Goalkeepers: David De Gea, Sergio Romero, Joel Pereira

Defenders: Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian, Axel Tuanzebe

Midfielders: Paul Pogba, Memphis Depay, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Michael Carrick, Ashley Young, Ander Herrera, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marouane Fellaini, Morgan Schneiderlin

Forwards: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford

Injuries and Suspensions: Luke Shaw (groin), Wayne Rooney (thigh)

Reading Squad:

Manager: Jaap Stam

Goalkeepers: Ali Al-Habsi, Anssi Jaakkola, Stuart Moore, Luke Southwood, Joe Tupper

Defenders: Chris Gunter, Jake Cooper, Paul McShane, Jordan Obita, Liam Moore, Zak Jules, Tyler Blackett, Danzell Gravenberch, Tennai Watson, Shane Griffin, Niall Keown, Axel Andresson, Gabriel Osho, Omar Richards, Thomas McIntyre, Ramarni Medford-Smith, Sindri Scheving

Midfielders: Joey van den Berg, George Evans, Roy Beerens, John Swift, Garath McCleary, Callum Harriott, Sandro Wieser, Stephen Quinn, Danny Williams, Josh Barrett, Jake Sheppard, Liam Kelly, Andrew Rinomhota, Harrison Bennett, Ryan East, Terence Vancooten, Tyler Frost

Forwards: Joseph Mendes, Deniss Rakels, Dominic Samuel, Yann Kermorgant, Yakou Méïte, Andrija Novakovich, Harry Cardwell, Sam Smith, Daniel Loader

Injuries and Suspensions: N/A

Predicted Starting XI:

Predicted Score:

Manchester United 4-0 Reading

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