Only Arsenal (14) have won the FA Cup more times than Man United (12), and with the League Cup in touching distance Erik Ten Hag will be looking at sealing a domestic cup double. In his wake in the fourth round of the FA Cup is former United man Paul Ince’s Reading outfit.
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Ten Hag revealed he will be naming a “strong” side for this FA Cup tussle, although he is still expected to make several rotations. The likes of Alejandro Garnacho and Anthony Elanga are expected to feature in attack, while Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire and either Tom Heaton or Jack Butland will feature at the back.
In what is hopeful news for United fans, Jadon Sancho has taken part in team training and may well feature in the squad for the first time since October.
Manager Paul Ince spent six years at Old Trafford, winning 10 trophies and has two FA Cup medals in his locker. He’s expected to field his son Tom (as he has done with 3 separate clubs) up top in a strike partnership with Lucas Joao or Shane Long, as Andy Carroll is out with an ankle injury.
Ince is set to deploy a back 3, and given his side are on the back of a 4-0 thumping by Stoke City, will sit most of the game with a back 5.
Man United sit fourth in the Premier League, 30 positions above Reading in the Championship. Despite slumping to a narrow loss to league leaders Arsenal last weekend, they were unbeaten in their previous 10 in all competitions and just swept aside Nottingham Forest in their other Cup exploits.
They outrank opposing sides in most attacking metrics, including goals, xG and shots. They do tend to concede more corners than they gain though, and they average over double their opposition card tally.
Reading are winless in their last 4 League appearances, and are still licking the wounds of their 4-0 humbling from Stoke City. They are outranked by their opposite numbers in the Championship in every metric, and they’ve let their frustrations show with over 2 cards a game.
Player Shots and Shots on Target
With Alejandro Garnacho set to start, his figures for shots on target are quite astonishing. 1.85 shots on target from 3.33 shots in every 90 minutes of playing time. That’s a 55.5% shot accuracy and so there may be some value in 1 SOT at 1.36.
In United’s last showing in the FA Cup – a 3-1 win over Everton, Marcus Rashford attempted 3 shots on target from 4 attempts, while Antony, Anthony Martial and Bruno Fernandes also popped off with 2 out of 3, 1 out of 3, and 1 out of 2 respectively.
With Andy Carroll likely out injured Yakou Meite, Tom Ince, Lucas Joao and Shane Long are all ready to make a name for themselves up front. This one may be worth waiting on confirmed lineups.
No player for the Royals has managed more than 1 shot on target p/90, and chances are likely to be slim at Old Trafford.
Player Goals and Assists
Marcus Rashford got on the scoresheet in the 97th minute against Everton, as he confidently put away a penalty. He’s scored in every game bar one vs Palace since the World Cup with 10 in 10 in all competitions. If he starts he may be worth backing.
Antony also grabbed a goal within 4 minutes of his first FA Cup outing, but may not start.
The Royals have not been a goalscoring side and only 7 teams in the Championship have managed less than their 31 in 28 appearances, although they did grab 2 against 3rd-placed Watford in the last round.
Tom Ince has been involved in 29% of Reading’s goals, and without him they would be fighting for survival. He currently rates at 4.50 on Betfair to score or assist.
United can expect to dominate the ball against Reading, who themselves only average 41% possession in the Championship. From the stats you can tell that United’s midfield like to have their fair share of touches, and so Casemiro, Christian Eriksen and Fred may be the ones to look at in the passing markets.
Given that style of play, if Scott McTominay starts and plays most of the 90, he may be some value at 1.53 for 50 or more passes.
Only Tom McIntyre averages over 40 passes for Reading, and given the passing markets cover 30+ or 50+ it’d be tough to vouch for him to break the half century mark. At 1.29 to complete 30 passes he may provide some value in adding to your bet builder.
I think they would have to spring a pretty big FA Cup upset to get anywhere close to half marks on the possession front though.
Man United Cards
I always love a Scott McTominay booking or foul shout. Whenever he’s on the pitch he looks like he’s ready to jump into a challenge, hit or miss. The bookies rate him at 1.25 to make a foul, despite him making 2.26 per 90.
Brazilians Casemiro and Fred also average over 2 fouls p/90, and it all depends on who Ten Hag starts to find some value.
Lucas Joao will be some player to handle for the United defence on the counter, and I can picture already McTominay or Fred taking him down before he can cause any danger.
A surprise mention here is defender Any Yiadom, who from the back three makes 2.06 dribbles per 90 and is fouled over twice a game. It’ll be interesting to see whether Bruno Fernandes takes him down here.
Matchups to watch:
Scott McTominay vs Lucas Joao
Harry Maguire vs Tom Ince
Bruno Fernandes vs Andy Yiadom
Given the referee Darren England averages 3.78 cards a game, and four different players have 5 or more cards, this may be the space to watch.
Mamadou Loum and Andy Yiadom are both valued at 3.3 for a card, and given they have 9 and 8 respectively already I wouldn’t be against backing them. Mamadou Loum specifically average over two fouls a game.
Up against tricky players like Casemiro and Fernandes in the midfield, Loum will have a tough night.
The wings should be another place to look as the likes of Elanga and Garnacho, as well as possible bench players Rashford and Antony, love to find space in between Reading’s centre-backs and wing-backs.
Match-ups to watch:
Mamadou Loum vs Bruno Fernandes
Andy Yiadom vs Alejandro Garnacho
Tom Holmes vs Wout Weghorst
My Bet Builder Picks of the Pack
There’s a few stats that caught my eye and looked like value on Betfair. But right at the end of the pack was my standouts – a cheeky cards double with Loum and Yiadom, which you can load into your betslip in one click below.
Manchester United vs REading
Andy Yiadom has 8 cards in 26 appearances.
He averages 1.42 fouls p/90.
Mamadou Loum has received 9 cards in 24 appearances.
He averages 2.18 fouls p/90.