It’s four wins from four under Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s short but profitable reign so far in charge of Manchester United.
The style of play has improved drastically and players are beginning to show their true potential under a manager that expects attacking football delivered week in, week out.
While there are going to be tougher tests on the horizon for the Norwegian interim manager, Solskjær has the luxury of resting a few first-team players in order to prioritise the youth players coming through in their FA Cup fixture against Reading.
The Championship side have struggled this season and have recently sacked Paul Clement as manager. New boss José Manuel Gomes has yet to find a winning performance from his players and has instead found himself on the losing end twice and drawing the other.
It’s still early days for the Portuguese manager at the Madejski Stadium, but an FA Cup fixture at Old Trafford is not going to be his priority when his team are embroiled in a relegation scrap.
Back United To Run Riot
In Manchester United’s opening four games under Solskjær, they have found the back of the net on 14 occasions. Just before the New Year, it was the first time the Red Devils had scored 12 goals in three consecutive games since 2011.
Reading’s defence is not a pretty sight this season – they’ve conceded 41 goals in the Championship alone. Clement failed to keep a tight ship at the back and Gomes’ handling of the defensive situation is not proving to be much better at this moment in time.
With the Old Trafford faithful as cheerful as they have been since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, Reading’s travelling fans might become used to seeing their players kick-off to restart the game.
Solskjær will, undoubtedly, blood some youngsters in this match and has reportedly told Mason Greenwood to be ready for this third round FA Cup tie. The 17-year-old academy graduate has been the star of United’s youth teams this season and will be deserving of his debut at Old Trafford.
Greenwood is a busy player who pops up either through the middle or out wide. While he won’t have the same freedom he is permitted in youth football, Solskjær will ask him to cause a nuisance for Reading’s central defenders and use his speed to get in behind time and time again.
With Man United’s high-flying spirits and team cohesion finally coming together – as well as Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sánchez back in the frame – this game is bound to see a hatful of goals.
Manchester United might not have been winning at half time against Newcastle away at St James’ Park until the second half, but they certainly had chances to punish the Magpies in the opening 45 minutes.
At Old Trafford, against lesser opposition in Reading, Solskjær’s men should be able to find a route past Reading’s feeble defence and be winning both at half time and full time. The Red Devils have, after all, won their last five matches in all competitions against the Royals.
United are 4/9 with Bet365 to be winning both at half time and full time in this FA Cup clash.
Bet on Man Utd For A Clean Sheet
With every game that passes by, Man United’s defence looks stronger and more composed. Victor Lindelöf has been a shining example of that in recent weeks and has leapt to the front of the queue as United’s best defender based on current form.
The Sweden international has shown great maturity this season and can also offer a route out with his ball-playing expertise.
While Solskjær entered the Man United history books by becoming only the club’s second manager to ever win his opening four matches, the Norwegian might be more pleased with the fact that he saw his team keep a clean sheet for only the third time this season in the Premier League.
Such had been the Red Devils’ defensive woes, United are playing catch up on the rest of the teams above them in the Premier League and he has had to quickly find a solution to the leaking defence. He looks to have achieved that now.
With Manchester United now coming up against a weakened Reading squad that has failed to score in five of their last six away matches, the Old Trafford faithful should be confident that they can progress into the next round unscathed by Gomes’ side.
Words: Liam Canning - @LiamPaulCanning