Manchester United look great value to end their six-year wait for silverware in Erik ten Hag’s first season in charge at Old Trafford.
In the words of the Dutchman himself, that is far too long a wait for a club of United’s stature to go between trophies.
United fans have not had a huge amount to cheer since their 2016-17 EFL Cup triumph, but that could soon be about to change.
The Red Devils remain in top-four contention in the Premier League, are as good as in the EFL Cup final and are also still in the hunt to win the Europa League and FA Cup.
After seeing off Everton 3-1 in round three of the latter, United now have a meeting with second-tier Reading – managed by ex-Red Devil Paul Ince – for a place in the last 16.
Ahead of Saturday’s contest at Old Trafford, Stats Perform picks out some of the standout Opta numbers.
Feeling up for the #FACup!#MUFC pic.twitter.com/rEecDecTh9
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 27, 2023
We meet again
You’d be right in thinking this fixture has a sense of familiarity about it, with this the 11th time the two sides have been paired in the FA Cup.
That will make this the joint-ninth most-played fixture in the competition’s history since 1912, with Arsenal versus Chelsea and Everton against Liverpool (15) top of that list.
United have advanced from nine of those previous 10 ties, the only exception being a 2-1 loss when the sides met in a second replay in the third-round stage in 1926-27.
Among FA Cup ties to have been played at least six times, only five teams can better United’s 90-per-cent win rate against a single opponent in the competition.
A one-sided affair
The one-sided nature of this fixture is not reserved exclusively for the FA Cup, either.
Reading have won just one of their 22 games against United when taking all competitions into account and have lost six in a row.
Indeed, you have to go back to that cup tie 96 years ago for the last time the Royals came out on top against United, with that match staged at Villa Park.
Across United’s six-match winning run against Reading, they have racked up 15 goals and kept three clean sheets in a row.
Right Royal misery
Reading know they will have to pull off a big upset if they are to advance, but their record against Premier League sides suggests that will not be happening this weekend.
They have lost seven of their past eight FA Cup matches against Premier League opposition, with their 3-1 win over West Brom in February 2016 the outlier in that sequence.
United are rightly considered huge favourites for this match, then, not least because they have lost only one of their past 39 home games against teams from outside the top tier.
Ten Hag’s side are unbeaten in 14 matches at Old Trafford in the FA Cup against any opponent in a run stretching back to a 2-1 loss to Arsenal in 2015.
Europe’s hottest player
It doesn’t help matters that Reading have endured an inconsistent campaign in the Championship, whereas United have – a few games aside – impressed in the top flight.
Ten Hag deserves huge praise for his early work at United, which includes getting far more out of Marcus Rashford in an attacking sense.
The England international has scored 10 goals in 10 games since the World Cup – a tally no other player across Europe’s top five leagues can match.
Rashford netted a late penalty in the previous round and has now been involved in five goals in his past five FA Cup appearances, scoring two and assisting three more.
That could spell bad news for Reading, against whom Rashford scored his only previous brace in the competition in a 4-0 third-round victory in January 2017.
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