Manchester United v Reading, Saturday 5th January, 12:30
Championship sides can’t cut the mustard at Old Trafford
Championship opponents have proven to be mere cannon fodder for us down the years as we’ve plundered at least three goals in eight of 10 such encounters since 2002/03.
Although there haven’t been too many second-tier challenges in the last few years, we still recorded 4-0 victories over the likes of Wigan and Reading themselves at Old Trafford under Jose Mourinho and with the wind back in our sails, should have few difficulties here.
Indeed, Reading are second from bottom in the table as they’ve been woeful all season, though they’ve been especially poor of late in losing five of eight winless matches, even going down 4-1 to Swansea o New Year’s day as results haven’t improved under Jose Gomes.
United to win both halves – WAS 1.90, NOW 2.15*
Debut for exciting youngster
Solskjaer has confirmed that both Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku will start from the off against Reading, with both requiring minutes under their belts after missing the beginning of the Norwegian’s tenure.
The new man at the helm is also reportedly going to hand a senior debut to 17-year-old Mason Greenwood to complete the front line, but while the academy prospect is rated as one of the top youngsters in the country, he’s far too much of a gamble when priced at ‘evens’.
Given Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford – all goalscorers of late – will get a breather here, Sanchez and Lukaku are the ones to look out for in the betting.
United to win & over 3.5 goals – WAS 2.00 NOW 2.50*
Time for Lukaku to be more than a super sub
Lukaku will want to show that he’s capable of being more than just a super sub and will hope to replicate his form in this tournament from last season as he netted five times in six matches – despite only starting three of them.
He failed to score in 90 minutes against Spurs in the semis and also in the 17 minutes he was handed as a substitute in the final against Chelsea, but he netted in all four previous rounds against weaker opponents.
In fact, the Belgian has a fantastic record in this tournament and when including his time at Everton, he’s bagged 12 goals from 12 appearances since 2014 where he played at least 20 minutes.
The number nine made instant impacts against both Bournemouth and Newcastle over the New Year, leaving him with a goal every 23.5 minutes under Solskjaer.
That means he’s now netted the first of the game in six of 10 matches in which he’s scored for club or country this season (when excluding goals plundered while he’s been sat on the bench), while he’s scored the opener in four of his last six starts in this competition going back to March 2016.
Featuring from the off, he looks an attractive price to do so once more.
Romelu Lukaku to score the first goal – WAS 3.75 NOW 4.50*
*all odds are subject to change