Solskjaer makes nine changes for Reading tie
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has freshened up his Manchester United XI for the Emirates FA Cup third-round tie at Old Trafford against Reading, by making nine changes from the side that beat Newcastle in the North East on Wednesday night.
United have had an intense four matches in 12 days over the festive season since Solskjaer became caretaker manager just before Christmas.
He had six ever-presents over that gruelling period, playing David De Gea, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic and Marcus Rashord in the wins against Cardiff, Huddersfield, Bournemouth and Newcastle.
All six have been rested for the Reading tie. It means a first start in goal in the Solskjaer era for Sergio Romero and for Alexis Sanchez up front. The latter will be partnered by Romelu Lukaku who has scored twice in his two sub appearances against Bournemouth and Newcastle. Alexis, the 30-year-old Chilean, hasn’t started a game since November in the away win against Juventus in Turin.
Matteo Darmian is set to partner Phil Jones at centre-back with Diogo Dalot and Ashley Young in the full-back roles. Scott McTominay makes his first appearance for Solskjaer in midfield. Academy youngsters Tahith Chong and James Garner are on the bench against the second-bottom Championship side and could make their competitive debuts.
Speaking to MUTV before the game, the caretaker boss told us why he has made nine changes for this afternoon's game.
"Most of the players have started anyway during the last few months and it was a hard night on Wednesday [against Newcastle]," said Solskjaer.
"It has been four games [in a row] for quite a few of players. David [De Gea], Victor [Lindelof], Nemanja [Matic], Marcus [Rashford]... so we felt it was time for them to have minutes on the bench and the ones who are coming in are ready to put themselves in the frame for the Tottenham game.
"You have got to give them a chance and they can show me how good they can play and how ready they are because if I don’t and we suddenly get two injuries, you are out of options so we felt it was the right thing to do today. We have only got two centre-backs fit in Jones and Lindelof, but Victor [Lindelof] had played all four games and was a bit tired so I am sure Darmian can do a good job there."
Commenting on United's chances of winning the Emirates FA Cup, Ole said: "It is the biggest chance we have of a trophy. We have to be realistic, the Champions League is the toughest tournament in the world, but this one is the one that sits in my memory from when I was young. It's biggest game if you get to the final at Wembley, the last game of the season. It has always been the big game to look forward to. We have a chance because we have a good squad."
Asked if Reading are dangerous given they have nothing to lose, Solskjaer replied: "Yes, but then again we have players that are not afraid of losing because they should play with courage and never play with fear at Old Trafford. I have just said to make the tempo high, win the ball back as soon as we can when we have lost it, go forward when you can because that has been key in the first four games."
United: Romero, Dalot, Darmian, Jones, Young (C), McTominay, A Pereira, Fred, Mata, Alexis, Lukaku.
Subs: Grant, Matic, Garner, Fellaini, Chong, Rashford, Martial.
The visitors' boss Jose Gomes, who took charge of the Royals on 22 December, has named ex-Reds defender John O’Shea on the bench at Old Trafford.
Reading: Jaakkola; Yiadom, Ilori, Moore (C) , Richards; Rinomhota, Kelly; McCleary, Swift, Harriott; Loader.
Subs: Walker, Gunter, O’Shea, Barrow, East, Meite, Barrow, Aluko.