Premier League

December 1, 2012



3 - 4

Manchester United

Premier League

17:30 +00:00, December 1, 2012

Madejski Stadium, England

United expecting a Royal pain

Team Stat Comparison

Reading Manchester United
Matches Played 38 38
Table Position 19 1
Points 28 89
Goal Difference -30 43
Goals for * 1.2 2.2
Goals against * 1.7 1.3
Last 5 L-L-W-D-L D-W-L-D-W
Last 5 home L-D-D-L-L W-L-W-L-W
Last 5 away L-W-L-L-L D-D-D-W-W
*  Goals per match - home matches for home club and away matches for away club
Stats: Reading | Manchester United

Competition Stats

Reading Manchester United
Goals Adam Le Fondre 12 Robin Van Persie 26
Assists Wayne Rooney 10
Yellows Jobi McAnuff 5 Wayne Rooney 7
Reds Pavel Pogrebnyak 1 Rafael 1
Squads: Reading | Manchester United
Michael Wade

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Reading are finding it tough to adjust to Premier League football. Just one win in 13 games so far this season, and things aren't about to get any easier with the visit of Manchester United - live on ESPN UK at 1730 GMT on Saturday.

Indeed, the Royals will find out what the Premier League is all about in December as their fixture list includes games against last season's top three in the space of 21 days. It is not the kind of schedule that manager Brian McDermott will welcome with his side only being kept off the foot of the table by winless Queens Park Rangers.

But, up until the past fortnight, Reading hadn't embarrassed themselves. They weren't losing many games (six draws and a win in the first 11) and their goal difference is still the second best in the bottom seven teams. However, back-to-back defeats against Wigan and Aston Villa, both coming courtesy of late goals, has changed fans' perceptions dramatically and has seen the newly-promoted side's frailties cruelly exposed.

Reading look like a side look woefully short of top-flight experience and class and, with QPR now destined to improve under the charge of Harry Redknapp, they are facing a long and probably fruitless battle against relegation.

But all is not lost. Reading and McDermott favour the position of underdog. They marched to title glory in the Championship last season when a mid-table finish was expected after play-off failure the campaign before. Team spirit and an effective and organised game plan saw Reading unexpectedly bloody the noses of West Ham, Southampton and Leicester who were all left to trail in their wake.

The visit of league leaders United will bring with it the kind of varied attacking threat that Reading encountered, and handled reasonably well, against Chelsea in August. In Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck, Sir Alex Ferguson has an embarrassment of riches. It is in defence where the problems lie.

The return of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones has seen United tighten up at the back and concede just three goals in the last four games (as opposed to eight in the four before that), but it has been left to late comebacks to dig United out of holes on more occasions than Ferguson will want.

The trip to the Madejski Stadium may be viewed as an opportunity to continue Jones and Smalling's integration back into the first team fold, as well as the chance to blood youngsters and give minutes to squad players - but they will keep plenty in reserve and won't underestimate the opposition.

Ferguson has warned this week that, after a busy beginning to the campaign, now is the time for United to "concentrate on the league" and build on their impressive start which has seen them edge out City at the top.

United have already suffered three defeats in the Premier League this season: Everton, Tottenham and Norwich all showing that their weaknesses at the back can be exposed by organisation, patience and the ability to take chances when they present themselves. But while it was something Reading excelled at in the Championship, they have not looked likely of showcasing these traits since.

Reading player to watch: Adam Federici. Federici came of age for Reading against United. Steve Coppell's preference for rotation in the cup competitions led to the Australian goalkeeper putting in a performance against the Red Devils in the fifth round of the FA Cup in February 2007 which earned him the 'Player of the Round' title and marked him out as a future No. 1, and not just a stand-in for Marcus Hahnemann. But Federici has lost his way this season, after an outstanding 20 clean sheets in Reading's title-winning side last campaign, and now faces a battle to hold onto his place in the team. With things looking desperate for the Royals it could be time for Federici to step up and prove himself all over again.

Manchester United player to watch: Wayne Rooney. In Rooney, United have the Premier League's joint-top assist leader (six) as he has played a slightly deeper role of late. However, with just three league goals to his name he will feel he is a due a burst and has often underperformed when United have needed him most. With the Manchester derby on the horizon, Rooney will want to find his shooting boots against Reading and prove that he is not willing to be relegated to the bench just yet.

Key battle: Jason Roberts v Man United defence. The veteran striker has a handy habit of winning set-pieces in the attacking third. Formerly of Blackburn, Wigan and West Brom, Roberts is one of, if not the most experienced player in the Reading ranks, and also the most capable of troubling United's shaky rearguard. If there is an opportunity to hassle, harass, and isolate a defender into making a mistake or drag them out of position in order to create space then you can be sure Roberts will take full advantage and stand a good chance of coming out on top in one-on-one battles. Aged 34, he doesn't have many opportunities against teams like United remaining. Expect him to make the most of it.

Trivia: In 16 meetings in all competitions, Reading have won just once and lost eight times against Manchester United, their only victory coming in 1927.

Stats: Manchester United have recovered 18 points from losing positions this season, more than any other team in the Premier League. Reading have conceded 78% of their goals in the second half of games this season.

Odds: Reading are a distant 7.50 with bet365, although some might say that is generous. The draw is 4.75 and an away win a realistic 1.40. Value can be found backing the draw at half-time and an away win at full time at 4.00.

Prediction: It would be one upset too far to back anything but a Man United win against a Reading side on such a bad run.

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