Manchester United continue to fight on three fronts as Reading bring their challenge to Old Trafford in the fifth round of the FA Cup tomorrow evening. Sir Alex Ferguson has stated he will make changes from last week’s fixture with Real Madrid. He will in fact have a fully fit squad to choose from apart from Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes.
David De Gea – The young Spaniard has been receiving praise from the media in the past week after his recent performances and Ferguson is likely to continue with him in goal. Anders Lindegaard appears to have fallen out of favour due to de Gea’s consistency.
Rafael – Rafael is young enough to cope with the heavy load of fixtures and is likely to be Ferguson’s preferred option at right-back.
Chris Smalling – Smalling is due a start after being overlooked for recent fixtures.
Nemanja Vidic – Manchester United’s captain was rested for the match in Madrid and it is a sign of the seriousness with which the medical staff are managing his knee. However, after a week’s rest, the Serbian can bring experience and class to the line-up against Reading.
Alexander Buttner – Opportunities for the Dutchman are likely to be limited until the end of the season now but this home tie against Reading could be one of his few chances.
Antonio Valencia – Valencia provides a balance to United’s right-hand side that benefits having Rafael behind him in particular. Recent flashes of improved form might give the Ecuadorian the encouragement to put in a good shift against Reading.
Michael Carrick – Carrick always brings a sense of organisation and calmness to United and his selection would be a reminder of United’s intent to win the FA Cup. His rest against Everton last Sunday means this would only be a second start in the past week too.
Anderson – Anderson suffered an injury when playing against Reading earlier this season and will be hoping to avoid a similar fate if he is given an expected start on Monday night. Given the quotes from Anderson this week admitting that he has tried to leave United “many times”, he will certainly have a point to prove.
Nani – Despite a reported car crash a couple of days ago, Nani might just edge the returning Ashley Young to a place in the starting eleven.
Ryan Giggs – United’s 39-year-old Welshman may be included as the attackers from the game with Real Madrid get a well-earned rest.
Javier Hernandez – Hernandez is another who is due more game time and there is little doubt that the Chicharito will get an opportunity against Reading.
A 4-1-4-1 or 4-2-3-1 formation for Manchester United is possible for this match. The 4-1-4-1 would see Michael Carrick sit in front of the back four with Ryan Giggs and Anderson playing a bit further forward. The 4-2-3-1 would see Michael Carrick partner either Giggs or Anderson in central midfield with the other supporting Javier Hernandez in attack.
Whilst Antonio Valencia and Nani are likely to start on the wings, it would be a surprise if Ashley Young didn’t make his comeback from injury at some point in this match and Tom Cleverley is likely to get some game time too. Ferguson will need to decide whether all of his four attackers from Madrid make the bench or whether some are rested.