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Opposition Lowdown: Erik Ten Hag’s Manchester United

This weekend sees Paul Ince come up against one of his former clubs, with Reading facing Manchester United in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Join us as we take a look at the opposition.

Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images


United finished last season in sixth place in the Premier League, 11 points behind Arsenal in fifth place, which meant they qualified for the Europa League group stages. They currently sit in fourth place, having seen 12 wins, three draws and five losses so far this season.

Their form at Old Trafford has been stronger than their away form with only one of those five losses coming at home. United’s recent run has been strong, having only seen one loss in their last 10 competitive games. They have also made the semi finals of the Carabao Cup and are through to the knockout stages of the Europa League.

Reading last faced United in 2019, when The Red Devils beat The Royals 2-0 at Old Trafford in the third round of the FA Cup after goals from Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku.

The boss

Erik Ten Hag: Ten Hag was appointed manager of United in April last year, taking over from Ralf Rangnick, who was in temporary charge following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Ten Hag’s first stint as a manager was at Go Ahead Eagles in 2012 where he had a strong start to his managerial career, guiding the side to promotion in his first season with the club. He then held managerial positions with Bayern Munich II and Utrecht before taking over as Ajax manager in December 2017. Ten Hag spent four and a half years at the Dutch giants, winning three league titles and two Dutch Cups, whilst achieving a 74% win record in his time at the club.

United lost their first two games under Ten Hag at the start of this season, but they have found a new lease of life under the Dutchman in recent months. The former defender likes his sides to play at a high tempo, with a strong emphasis on attractive pass-and-move football.


Defender Diogo Dalot will miss this weekend’s game with a muscular injury, while left back Luke Shaw is also expected to be missing as he continues to work towards returning to full fitness. Forward Anthony Martial and midfielder Donny Van de Beek will also miss out, but Jadon Sancho could return to the United squad for the first time since October. Harry Maguire will also be available following his suspension in United’s last game against Nottingham Forest in the League Cup.

Chelsea FC v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Manchester United/Manchester United via Getty Images

Expected line-up

Butland, Wan-Bissaka, Malacia, Lindelof, Maguire, Fred, McTominay, Fernandes, Garnacho, Pellistri, Rashford

Key player

Marcus Rashford: Striker Rashford joined his boyhood club United at the age of seven and has worked his way through the United academy. He made his debut for the club in February 2016, scoring two goals against Danish side Midtjylland in the Europa League. He went on to make his Premier League debut a few days later and scored another two goals in United’s win against Arsenal.

Rashford finished his first season in the United first team with eight goals and secured a place in the England squad for Euro 2016. He made his England debut in a warm-up match against Australia prior to the tournament and continued his trend of scoring on his debut.

Rashford has gone on to make over 300 appearances for United, scoring 111 goals, and racking up 51 appearances for England, scoring 15 goals. Although naturally a striker, he can also play out wide, exhibiting strong pace and dribbling skills, but he is also strong at striking from distance, as seen in United’s last league game against Arsenal.

One to watch

Alejandro Garnacho: Garnacho is a winger who joined United from Atletico Madrid in October 2020. He started his career in Getafe’s academy before signing for Atletico in 2015. The 18-year-old impressed for United’s youth team and secured his first appearance for the club in April last year, coming off the bench in a league game against Chelsea. He made his full debut in October last year, starting against Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League.

Garnacho has appeared 18 times for United so far this season, scoring two goals and claiming five assists. The winger has represented Spain at under-18 level before making five appearances for Argentina at under-20 level. Garnacho is most comfortable on the left-hand side of the pitch, is extremely pacey, and also exhibits impressive close control of the ball.