This weekend’s clash against Manchester United is an exciting opportunity - not just for the team but also Paul Ince who gets the chance to return to the club where he enjoyed plenty of success. It will also be an enjoyable experience for the thousands of supporters heading to Old Trafford and it at least gives us a break from league action.
Considering we haven’t enjoyed the best start to 2023, this break is probably a good thing but, if I’m honest, this match doesn’t really matter to me in the grand scheme of things. Of course a victory at Old Trafford would be far more memorable than a home win against Watford next weekend - but winning the latter fixture is far more important considering we aren’t mathematically safe yet.
There seems to be a lot of complacency at the moment with many people believing there’s no chance of us being relegated.
The Royals may not be in a terrible position now, but many teams below us have strengthened their squads this window. As the Jose Gomes era showed, that could make all the difference in terms of avoiding relegation.
Blackpool have strengthened significantly with Josh Bowler returning to Bloomfield Road, Huddersfield Town have also been busy along with Rotherham United, and even Cardiff City could enjoy a boost with a new manager set to come in. Make no mistake about it: we aren’t in an ideal position at this stage and recent performances aren’t helping our morale.
In fairness, we never expected this season to be easy and that’s why many people are remaining patient with Ince - but good performances and results need to come soon if he wants to keep the majority of the fanbase onside.
The former England international has called this game a “distraction” and that’s something many of us will agree with. It’s just a shame we can’t amends for such a poor showing against Stoke City until next weekend, because a result like that will probably continue to play on the players’ minds until we return to the Select Car Leasing Stadium for our meeting with the Hornets.
Reading should enjoy this upcoming game at Old Trafford - as should the supporters who know there won’t be huge consequences if we lose this tie - but I’m not too fussed about it with the Royals having high priorities on their list.
Perhaps some of the media’s obsession with Ince’s return to United and lack of attention on us has contributed to this disinterest - but all I can think about is the 50-point target we need to hit.
Give some youngsters a chance to put themselves in contention and let’s not risk some of our key players. Some fans will want us to put out a strong lineup - but it’s not worth risking players such as Tom Ince and Joe Lumley who could be extremely valuable between now and the end of the season.