On paper, the matchup between Manchester United and Reading looks so hopelessly one-sided that Reading might consider saving themselves the train fare to Manchester and just give United the game. However, as we all know, in football, the obvious does not always happen. In fact, the return fixture at Reading saw a 7 goal thriller, with United winning it by just the odd goal.
Looking at the likely team line-ups is not easy as far as Reading is concerned. Just at the time they could do with all of their players being available, they are faced with an Armageddon team selection problem. Firstly, both of their first choicer goalkeepers are injured. That means rookie Stuart Taylor will have to face the likely strike force of Van Persie and Rooney, with the possible addition of Danny Welbeck on the left. Reading also have Jimmy Kebe missing along with striker Pogrebnyak who serves the last game of a three match suspension. So, for a match against the runaway champions elect, they have a patched up team with a third choice rookie keeper!
As far as Manchester United are concerned, they have just Paul Scholes and Phil Jones long term injuries and Nani has not fully recovered after tweaking his hamstring in the previous match. Other than that, Sir Alex has a full squad to choose from. It is therefore nigh on impossible to second guess his choice, here is my suggestion:-
(Possible, 4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Anderson; Valencia, Cleverley, Rooney; Van Persie.
Welbeck may play instead of Cleverley who had his worst game of the season against Chelsea. If there was method in Reading owner Anton Zingarevich's decision to sack manager Brian McDermott this week it was perhaps the theory that a trip to Manchester United is a 'free' game and one which has no downside for the Russian. Lose and nobody would have expected any different, yet win or draw and the decision to remove McDermott is vindicated. Reading need points rather than point-scoring, however, and they could not have asked for a tougher start to life after McDermott.
Manager-less Reading have lost every one of their last five games, and caretaker manager Eamonn Dolan will struggle to change that against a Manchester United side that have barely broken sweat in all-but securing the Premier League title. United have not lost a single league game since November, and have won every league game since January. Furthermore, they have won every game at Old Trafford save one – a defeat to Spurs in September. A United win and a City loss this weekend would see United go 15 points clear at the top of the table.