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Manchester United vs Reading: Analysis, Predictions, and Bets
It's time for focus to turn towards the 3rd Round of the FA Cup over the next few days. This is a difficult balancing act for bigger clubs as they aim to be successful on multiple fronts without sacrificing form due to exhaustion. It's also a wonderful opportunity for lower league teams to try to become giant killers and take out one of the Premier League big boys. Manchester United will host Championship side Reads on Saturday afternoon as Solskjær tries to maintain the feel-good factor around Old Trafford. Source Current Form Manchester United Manchester United are currently in a good run of form in the Premier League and have won 4 of the last 5 games. This has seen them start to slowly challenge Arsenal and Chelsea for a place in the top 4, but there's a long way to go yet and it remains to be seen whether or not this upturn in form is simply a combination of an acute reaction to a managerial change and the quality of opponents faced. Nonetheless, Manchester United are looking a lot better than they were a few weeks ago under Mourinho's command. Reading Reading have been on a dreadful run of form in the Championship so far this season and now find themselves deep into a relegation battle in 23rd place in the league. So far, they've accumulated just 20 points from 26 games and have already lost 14 times this season. In the previous 5 league fixtures, Reading have lost 3 and drawn 2. Head to Head In the previous 10 meetings between the clubs, Manchester United have won 7 and there have been 3 draws. Looking back through the entire history of this fixture, the clubs have played each other a total of 21 times, within which Manchester United have won 13, Reading have won 1, and there have been 7 draws. It's fair to say that this fixture doesn't favour Reading. Source Analysis Manchester United This is a very interesting fixture from a Manchester United perspective. The addition of Solskjær in a management role has seen the team go on to win 4 games in a row and genuinely give themselves a small shot at finishing in the top 4 this season and therefore qualifying for the Champions League. With that in mind, the popular opinion for Manchester United supporters may be to completely focus on the Premier League and allow the fringe and youth players to take on Reading in this FA Cup Third Round match. There is some merit in that insomuch that Reading lack the quality that Manchester United possess and therefore the squad players should have enough to get the job done anyway without risking injuries and fatigue to the first 11. However, there is also a risk that Reading could shock the world and put Manchester United out of the competition. For the top 4 challenge, this would not really be a bad thing, but there is a feel-good factor around the club again and there is a chance that a loss at home to such a poor side could dampen that somewhat. Changes to the first 11 will be expected, but Manchester United will likely dominate possession and will look to attack at every opportunity. In truth, this should be a game that they win comfortably and anything other than progression into the next round should be seen as a big failure. Reading In some ways, this is a perfect fixture for Reading. Their campaign in the Championship has been woeful so far and they're unlikely to avoid the relegation drop at the end of the season unless their form changes dramatically. This fixture allows the club to give the fans something to be excited about and if they can pull off a victory here then it could spark some life into their league campaign. There is very little pressure on the Reading players here as they're expected to be beaten comfortably against this Manchester United team at Old Trafford. Perhaps the best chance Reading has to progress, therefore, is to simply take the shackles off and play fast-paced, aggressive football and then hope to take any opportunities as they arrive. Sitting back and trying to defend for 90 minutes would almost certainly lead to a loss so there's not much else for the Reading players to do other than to go out there and show some passion. Stranger things have certainly happened in cup competitions and Reading will be hopeful of being the first team to dent Solskjær's perfect record so far as Manchester United boss. Predictions Manchester United should have far too much quality for this Reading team no matter what side they put out. If Reading manage to score early then they may cause some panic, but this should be a high scoring game for the home team. Prediction: Manchester United win Score Prediction: Manchester United 4 - 0 Reading Source Betting Picks Over 3.5 goals at 1.85 or above I fancy this to be a high scoring game so will be having a small punt on over 3.5 goals. With the level of opposition here, over 2.5 goals simply doesn't offer enough reward for me to bother with it.