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Reading vs Manchester United: Match preview

Stadium: Madejski Stadium

Referee: Mark Halsey

Kick-off: 11:00 PM (IST), Saturday, 1st of December

Manchester United scored a laboured win in midweek over West Ham United to maintain their slender 1-point lead at the top of the table, ahead of cross town rivals Manchester City, who also won. In tomorrow’s round of fixtures, however, United face a relatively easy visit to 19th placed Reading, while City face the resilient Everton at the Etihad. With a very realistic chance of pulling at least 3 points clear of the current English champions, Manchester United will most certainly look to attack the game, and perhaps score a more convincing win in front of travelling fans, than they did at home against the Hammers.

Reading, on the other hand, are stuck in a rut ever since their shattering cup loss to Arsenal, where they blew a 4 – 0 lead to lose 5 – 7. Brian Mcdermott’s men have only won 1 of the five games played since then, and sit in an unfavourable position at the bottom of the league, only above Queens Park Rangers. With a poor defensive record being brought to this game, there seems little hope for the Royals at Madejski, although Le Fondre and co. might have something to say about it.

Form

Reading: D D W L L

If there is one thing that Reading have lacked this term, it has been a hero. While there have been several bright individual performances across their games, there has been not one player who has been consistent enough for McDermott’s side. This has essentially meant that Reading have had no one to go to, to rescue them in times of trouble, and have thus put in flat performances more often than not. Having lost both their previous league matches, and kept just one clean sheet in all competitive fixtures thus far in the season, Reading are almost a certainty to concede, and will hope that the United defence buckles under pressure as it often has this season, for any chance of rescuing something from this game.

Manchester United: W L L W W

The loss of Valencia to yet another injury, and the below par performances of Young, in addition to the knock picked up by Nani, have seen Sir Alex return to the new-found diamond formation which seems to work infinitely better with Cleverley in the line up, along with Anderson in place of Fletcher and/or Scholes. While there is no denying the two senior players’ importance to the squad, they do seem to work better when played in tandem with effective wide players, and with Rafael being the only one to really fit in the category for United thus far, we might well see Cleverley and Ando start again. This return to the diamond though, has seen United lose their goal scoring sheen somewhat, with just 4 goals in their last 3 league matches, substantially below their season average. However, having not conceded against a decent West Ham attack just two days before, confidence will be high that a clean sheet victory can be registered at the Madejski.

Injuries, Concerns & Suspensions

Reading: Jimmy Kebe, Jem Karacan, Alex McCarthy, Danny Guthrie.

Manchester United: Shinji Kagawa, Luis Nani, Nemanja Vidic, Antonio Valencia.


Key Clashes

Robin van Persie vs Nicky Shorey

A characteristic of the game against West Ham at Old Trafford, if one cared to observe, was the frequency with which Robin van Persie drifted wide to the right wing, and played numerous reverses and one-twos with the fullback Rafael. In the absence of a true winger, this was essential to adding width to United’s attack, and worked extremely well, thanks to the nous and vision of the Dutchman. With Reading’s weakness against balls floating into the box, Nicky Shorey will have to be alert to deny both van Persie and Rafael the space to get in behind the Reading defence, and exploit their poor defensive record.

Adam Le Fondre vs Jonny Evans

Manchester United have themselves not been the best in defence so far this season, and in spite of a clean sheet in midweek, their vulnerability will not completely slip under the radar. Le Fondre is Reading’s top scorer this season, with 3 goals to his name, and is particularly fluent at putting the ball in the back of the net from a set piece situation. He will likely be up against Irishman, Jonny Evans, who is still prone to momentary lapses of concentration, and will have a very realistic chance of adding to his goal tally.

What to expect

A victory for the away team. As already mentioned, Reading have had no one to look up to in times of distraught, and with a high likelihood of conceding, it seems unlikely that they will garner even a point from this game. Reading have won just 1 of their last 13 league games, and none of their last 6 against the Red Devils, clearly tilting the balance in favour of the current league leaders.

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