Date:Friday February 16 2007
Manchester United take on Reading in the 5th round of the FA Cup tomorrow and with a place in the quarter-finals at stake, they will face an second-string team.
Reading manager Steve Coppell has already announced he would play his reserve team at Old Trafford as their priority is the league and Sir Alex defended his stance despite a lot of people blasting coppell for neglecting the oldest club competition in the world.
'Steve Coppell has put the cat among the pigeons saying he's playing his reserve team tomorrow, which is very, very interesting,' said Fergie.
'But I can understand him. The position they are in the league gives them an outstanding chance of getting into the UEFA Cup and therefore it must colour his thinking.'
He has to win the FA Cup to get real glory for Reading, whereas he'll get real glory by being fifth, sixth or seventh. That's (like) winning a trophy by being in a UEFA place.
'I think it's a realistic view, although I may be wrong in the way he's viewing it. Maybe he feels having given these players chances in the earlier rounds he's giving them a chance in the bigger games, and I think that's admirable.'
Admirable or not, the most important is that it should be an easy game for United now. Reading's performance this season is magical but their squad does not have the depth to field two similarly strong teams whereas United are able to do it.
As for the home team, we will certainly have to do without Wayne Rooney who is suspended for reaching the yellow cards limit. Cristiano Ronaldo will be available after overcoming a heavy cold and even Alan Smith has an outside chance of featuring in the game.
I believe Sir Alex will try the Larsson-Solskjaer partnership again though it did not seem to be very effective against Portsmouth. With the Lille game in mind, Ronaldo might be set for a place on the bench and Vidic or Ferdinand could lose his place, too.
Last season our progress in this competition came to a halt at this point, with a defeat at the hands of Liverpool at Anfield. This time we have a much easier opponent who will rest several key players - surely no chance of a momentous shock?
Prediction: 2-0 for United. League leaders will prove way too strong for a weakened Reading.
Date:Friday February 16 2007
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