The last club in England still standing in four competitions, Manchester United's draining fixture list shows no sign of abating as they host Championship side Reading in the fourth round of the FA Cup. A convincing victory over Nottingham Forest in the first leg of the EFL Cup semifinal in midweek has set Erik ten Hag's side up for at least one final at Wembley but after six years with silverware United fans will surely want more.
The Royals have not beaten United since 1927, one of 15 meetings between these two sides in the world's oldest domestic soccer cup competition. Here is how you can watch the match and what you need to know:
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- Date: Saturday, Jan. 28 | Time: 3 p.m. ET
- Location: Old Trafford -- Manchester, United Kingdom
- Live stream: ESPN+
- Odds: Manchester United -900; Draw +600; Reading +1800 (via Caesars Sportsbook)
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Manchester United: With no free midweek until March (and those would quickly be eaten up by a deep run in the Europa League), Ten Hag will need all the numbers he can find in his squad. As such, it will be welcome news to him that Jadon Sancho is close to ending his three month absence from the first team for fitness and personal reasons. "He is training with the team and we will see," said Ten Hag when asked whether Sancho could feature against Reading.
"He's improving, he's making steps and we will make the decision after training. He's on the way back, he's making steps, he's back in team training and we have to see when he's ready to go back into game." Sancho, who has closed his social media channels, would offer a welcome alternate on the flanks, where Marcus Rashford is shining but the spotlight is also hitting Antony, who has struggled to live up to the billing of his sizeable price tag since joining from Ajax.
Reading: If the Championship side are to pull off an unlikely upset at Old Trafford they will need to find better form than they have in the second tier. On October 1 they sat third in the table after a win over Huddersfield, since then they have gone 4-4-9, including a 4-0 loss to Stoke last weekend, to slip out of the top half.
Their manager will certainly have plenty of motivation on his return to Manchester however. Paul Ince won two Premier League titles with the Red Devils before being told he was surplus to requirements by Sir Alex Ferguson. The 55 year old knows what a winning United side looks like and pronounced himself impressed with the work Ten Hag has done. "It looks to me that he's raised the standards of the club," he said. "He's doing it his way, which is so important. It helps when you're winning games, and when you've got a lot of money to spend.
"He's brought in the right players. We've talked for so many years about Man United's recruitment. I feel likes he's getting there. They're starting to gel. When you go back to Sir Alex and the years he was at Man United, it's so important to have that stability. You can't keep chopping and changing managers. They've done that too often in the last four or fives years. Hopefully he's here for a long time."
Expect United to rotate but for their reserves to have a little too much for Reading. PICK: Manchester United 2, Reading 0