The Red Devils are 12 points clear of arch-rivals Manchester City at the top of the English top flight, with just 10 games to go. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men could, however, find their lead cut to nine points when play gets underway, if their neighbours beat Everton at Goodison Park in Saturday’s early kick-off.
Reading, on the other hand, are right in the middle of the relegation zone and they come into the match on the back of a five-match losing streak in all competitions. That poor run of form saw manager Brian McDermott being shown the door at the Madejski; a decision that several rival managers, including Andre Villas-Boas, felt was “tremendously unfair”.
The Royals have not beaten United since 1927. They have already lost twice to them this season – 4-3 at the Madejski Stadium in the Premier League (in December) and 2-1 at Old Trafford in the FA Cup last month.
Last Five Games (all competitions, most recent first): D L W W W
Last Match: Manchester United 2 – 2 Chelsea
Last Five Games (all competitions, most recent first): L L L L L
Last Match: Reading 1 – 2 Aston Villa
Manchester United: Darren Fletcher (illness) will miss the rest of the season, while Phil Jones (ankle), Paul Scholes (knee) and Nani (hamstring) are all injury doubts and will have late fitness tests to determine their participation in this tie. Ferguson is likely to make a few changes to the side that featured against Chelsea in the FA Cup last week, with the likes Robin van Persie and Nemanja Vidic returning to the starting XI.
Probable Line-up (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Anderson; Valencia, Rooney, Cleverley; van Persie
Reading: Goalkeeper Adam Federici (ankle) and winger Jimmy Kebe (groin) are still unavailable for the Royals. Pavel Pogrebnyak serves the last of his three-game suspension, while fellow striker Jason Roberts (hip) is likely to miss the remainder of the season. Deputy stopper Alex McCarthy is back in training but looks to be short of match fitness, meaning third-choice Stuart Taylor will continue in goal.
Probable Line-up (4-4-2): Taylor; Kelly, Pearce, Mariappa, Harte; McAnuff, Leigertwood, Akpan, Robson-Kanu; Hunt, le Fondre