The Royals come into this match on the back of 5 consecutive losses, which has grossly blighted all the good work they put in two months ago.
Their excellent recovery and ability to come from behind in more games than one saw dismissed manager, Brian McDermott named Manager of the Month of January and his last card, Adam Le Fondre pick up the player’s gong. Anton Zingarevich, youthful owner and CEO of Reading FC fired Brian McDermott after the Royals’ 2-1 loss at home to fellow relegation strugglers, Aston Villa.
It was the last straw for the Russian multi-millionaire who wouldn’t want a quick return to the lower division of English football. Reading’s poor run has seen them caught up by QPR who were 7 points adrift of safety four weeks ago. Both are now level on 23 points and this spells enormous danger. It is a situation the club and its supporters dreaded, but one they have to come to terms with and fight until the last game to ensure safety and a place among the big wigs next season.
Manchester United cannot afford to slip up at all in the title run in. Handing the title to noisy neighbours Manchester City last season still bites them till this day. That will serve as a timely reminder and motivation to go all out and hoist the 20th crown which they so badly crave.
After throwing away a 2-goal lead to Chelsea last Sunday in the F.A Cup Quarter-Final, they have surely given themselves more work to do in the coming months as they chase a domestic double. The pain of exiting the Champions League is still fresh and evident.
Sir Alex Ferguson will want nothing less than an outright win this evening when the Royals come to town. Perhaps more worrying is the form of main threat, Robin Van Persie. The Dutchman looks dazed and out of sorts at the moment. One goal in his last nine is testament to the fact that his killer instinct has largely waned.
Wayne Rooney and Chicharito scored v Chelsea last weekend and Danny Welbeck refuses to add to a paltry total of 2 goals scored all season. It is something that will give Sir Alex a headache coming into this game especially if we consider the drama that played out at the Madejski last November.
Michael Carrick continues to dominate in midfield and is expected to start this evening. The Englishman is in the form of his life and has been for much of the season. To crown it all, his assists ratio has stocked up in recent matches and all round play is a joy to watch. Carrick that is. Believe the hype. It is deserved.
Like Norwich, Reading have to be wary of the lustiness and hunger of Champions-elect, Manchester United. The 4-0 demolition of the Canaries was a clear statement of intent that a repeat of last season’s capitulation is only in the imagination of the deluded. The determination and unbridled quest to retain the EPL crown is one that has rarely been seen in any of Fergie’s assemblages.
Cancer survivor, Eamonn Dolan is no stranger to adversity. Cheating death is the greatest battle you can ever win and he has achieved that once. What then is the prospect of beating the drop? A small fry compared to the cancerous situation he made past. He seems to be the right man to lead the Royals to a 9-game survival fight which starts at the Theatre of Dreams this evening.
The Irishman who took over the reins (in caretaker capacity) from the bald Brian, faces a daunting task today in Manchester. Only one team in domestic football has managed to topple the red army at home all season. Spurs did the unthinkable five months ago. Reading can if all things work in their favour and everything goes against Manchester United including a heavy thunderstorm.
Adam Le Fondre could not do much when both teams met 26 days ago in the F.A Cup. He poses a huge threat when he is on song. Eamonn can rely on him to deliver the goods.
Wayne Rooney has been under the spotlight since SAF dropped him for the all important match v Real Madrid. He however came back last Sunday to score his 196th goal and go within 53 of Sir Bobby Charlton’s all time scoring record for the Red Devils.
Rumours that he is leaving have been undermined by Sir Bobby and Sir Alex. The latter has authoritatively affirmed that his star contributor is staying put and a new contract will be discussed when the time is right. The seemingly concerned and disillusioned Wayne can turn the Royals inside out just to pass on a message to SAF and the coaching staff that he hasn’t lost it.
MANCHESTER UNITED: DDG, Rafa/Smalling, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Carrick, Anderson/Scholes, Young, Giggs, Wazza (Rooney), RVP
READING: Taylor, Kelly, Pearce, Mariappa, Harte, Leigertwood, Akpan, McAnuff, McCleary, Robson-Kanu, LE FONDRE
Robin Van Persie is again expected to lead the line despite his poor record in front of goal since January. His strike partner is most assuredly Wayne Rooney. Paul Scholes hasn’t played for a long time and should be in contention for a place in the starting eleven.
The other positions virtually pick themselves except Fergie decides to rest either Rafa or Evra who he described as worn out after playing regularly for the last two or three months. He might also rest Rio Ferdinand, who was surprisingly (not for football reasons) selected by Roy Hodgson for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers, and bring back captain Nemanja Vidic into the starting 11.
Antonio Valencia has been a disappointment in the last 12 weeks. Giggs in his place will not be a shock. It might be 1001 appearances for the Welsh evergreen legend.
For Reading, Nigeria’s Hope Akpan has been excellent for them despite their many losses. Adam Le Fondre might be chosen ahead of Pavel and co to lead the line with Robson-Kanu and the MACs (McCleary and McAnuff) supporting him.
The Royals need something more than supernatural to emerge victorious today. Hopefully for them, it won’t be the belting others have received when they visit.
Written by Ohiskaka Eboreime
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