BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
VENUE – Old Trafford (Capacity – 75,811)
KO – 1730 GMT
Referee – Mark Clattenburg
Manchester United face relegation threatened Reading at the Theatre of Dreams. The league leaders have had a tough last week and will want to get away from that ensure that they get the 3 points to maintain their lead at the top of the table. Reading on the other hand seems to have the problems piling up. On the top of the list is the relegation battle they have on their hands. Sacking McDermott doesn’t really help but the manager was obviously helpless. He was not able to get the right balance and whoever takes charge for the rest of the season will have a near impossible job. Facing Manchester United as your first game as the new manager is the not an envious job. Paolo di Canio is the favorite to take over at Reading but he will probably be appointed after the United game. Without a manager and fighting for survival, this might turn into a bad evening for Reading.
The last week was terrible for Manchester United. Firstly they were eliminated by Real Madrid in the Champions League and then on the weekend blew a 2 goal lead against Chelsea in the FA cup. Sir Alex Ferguson was pretty upset with the officials after the Madrid game but much more upset with his players after the FA cup tie. The first half of the Chelsea game was dominated thoroughly by United. They could have killed off the tie but failed to do it and the London side outplayed Ferguson’s men in the second half. The players decided not to turn up for the second half. Complacency crept and if it wasn’t for David De Gea’s incredible save in the dying minutes, the club would have been eliminated from the competition after leading by 2 goals. The manager hates complacency and will have told his team in no clear words. A lead of 12 points can be very tempting and that is what Ferguson will be aware of. Games like these are the must-wins for the team in order to win the league title back from their rivals. He will put out his team to attack and attack. Nothing less than a victory will be acceptable to the team.
Reading is enduring a tough return to top flight football. Among the promoted clubs they are the worst off in terms of league position. Sitting 19th in the league table and with the run-in of fixtures to follow it seems unlikely that they will fend off relegation. Miracles though have happened in the past. The victim of Reading’s poor form was Brian McDermott. He was relieved from his position last week. Facing an in-form Manchester United side will the task at hand for the new manager or the interim coach. Paolo Di Canio is the bookies favorite to take over at the club. The former Swindon manager has a little history with Manchester United and it will be enticing if he gets appointed before the clash. 3 points may be the target but the realistic goal would be getting a draw against the league leaders. The fact that they will need to be at their very best to get anything out of this game in as understatement.
Manchester United – David de Gea’s brilliant save against Chelsea at Old Trafford saved the team’s blushes. He has established himself as the No.1 at the club. Rival Lindegaard has allegedly been dropped from the national team for lack of first team matches but De gea’s form means he will find it hard to get those chances. Rafael and Evra, visibly tired against Chelsea after the match against Madrid will be starting in the full back positions on Saturday. Club captain Nemanja Vidic will partner Jonny Evans in the centre of defense. Nani’s injury against Chelsea is not deemed serious and given the form of Valencia, hopefully the Portuguese will be fit to start on the right wing while Ashley Young on the left. Paul Scholes may start in the middle of the park with Anderson. Carrick and Cleverly are the first choice at the present but both of them have had two tiresome matches and will start on the bench. Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie will start upfront in an attacking formation.
Reading – Despite being badly in need for 3 points Eamonn Dalon, the stand in coach will have to take a safety first approach which means that a 4-5-1 formation will be the order of the day. He will have to set out his team so as to bear as much damage as the league leaders can inflict upon them. Starting from the defensive side of things, Adam Federici has been the No.1 this season ahead of Alex McCarthy. Kelly, signed from Fulham in January has made the right back slot his own while Nicky Shorey will start on the left back position. Alex Pearce and Adrian Mariappa have formed a decent partnership in the centre of defense and will be expected to start against Manchester United. Mikele Leightorwood will be in the middle of the park with Jobi McAnuff and Hope Apkan on either side of him. Jimmy Kebe will start on the left wing while Englishman Nick Blackman will start on the right hand side. Both the wingers will look to join the lone man upfront Adam Le Fondre in attack. The visitors will have little attacking opportunities in the match and will have to make the most of them.
Manchester United – Robin van Persie– The Dutchman is going through a mini slump is short Manchester United career. His performance hasn’t seen a decline but the goals have dried up. They say form is temporary but class is permanent. Persie will get back to his goal scoring ways soon enough and someone will get the punishment. Reading may just be the team that bears the brunt of the former Arsenal man’s frustration. He has been drawing a blank for the past few games and hasn’t been able to put away decent chances. The Reading defenders have to be careful though because he is going to score and with his quality there might not be anything they might be able to do. He is still a great finisher and with the amount of chances his teammates create he will get on the score sheet soon.
Reading – Adam Le Fondre– The English striker has spent only two seasons at Reading but he has been one of their top performers for the club. He has adjusted to the pace and roughness of the premier league like a fish to water. The Londoners have suffered a tough but the striker has held out his own amongst all his team’s problems. He will be the key for the team at Old Trafford. The promoted side will be probably have to play a smash and grab kind of game and the striker will get a few decent chances that the team will be hoping to be converted. His understanding with his teammates is also very good and is adept at leading the line. He will have to pull out a rabbit out of the hat for his team to get 3 points from the match.
Written by ABHIMANYU HALAKHANDI
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