Jaap Stam was the manager of Reading when they play United in the 2017 FA Cup.

A history of Red FA Cup reunions

Friday 27 January 2023 10:00

Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Ince returns to Old Trafford on Saturday as the manager of Championship side Reading.

Ince made over 250 appearances in red during the 1980s and 1990s, helping United to the FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup and, later, the inaugural two Premier League titles.

Under his management, the Royals, who currently sit 14th in England’s second tier, will be hoping to cause a splash in this season’s FA Cup fourth round and they have been regular visitors to M16 in this competition recently.

This is the fifth time we’ve been drawn against the Berkshire club at home in the FA Cup since 2007 and, amazingly, the third occasion in which a former Red is occupying the technical area for the visitors.

Jaap Stam, the teak-tough centre-back who was totemic in our 1999 Treble triumph, brought his high-flying Royals to the Theatre of Dreams in 2017’s third round, but while it was a memorable afternoon for Wayne Rooney, the outing became a bit of a nightmare for those in blue-and-white.

Remembering Ince's United achievements


We look back at the role the Reading boss played in our title victories of 1993 and 1994, ahead of Saturday's visit.

Rooney equalled the Reds’ all-time scoring record that day, drawing level with Sir Bobby Charlton’s mark of 249 which he’d later move clear of, while Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, with two, were also on the scoresheet.

Stam guided Reading to a third-placed finish in the Championship but they were denied promotion in the play-off final by Huddersfield Town and he left the club in March 2018.

One former Red hero who did successfully achieve promotion to the top flight with Reading was Steve Coppell.

The Merseyside-born ex-winger was at the helm when the Royals broke the Championship points record, with 106, on the way to the title in 2006 and he came up against United four times the following season – twice in the league, twice in the cup.

That was because his talented Reading outfit – they finished eighth in their maiden Premier League season – earned a replay by drawing 1-1 at Old Trafford, with Brynjar Gunnarsson answering Michael Carrick’s opener. We won the second fixture 3-2 at the Madejski Stadium, with all three goals coming during the opening six minutes.

Aside from those Reading rendezvous, we can only find five other post-war instances of former United players returning to Old Trafford to manage the opposition in an FA Cup tie.

Steve Coppell stands alongside Sir Alex Ferguson on the touchline for the cup tie in 2007.

Bryan Robson’s Middlesbrough gave us a scare in the third round of 1998/99, although goals from Andy Cole, Denis Irwin and Ryan Giggs eventually rendered Andy Townsend’s opener futile in a season we’d go on to taste victory at Wembley.

We got to the final in 1995 too, although with a less savoury ending. Among the sides to be beaten along the way were Queens Park Rangers. The Hoops were under the charge of Robson’s former midfield partner Ray Wilkins, who was player-manager at Loftus Road for a couple of years.

Noel Cantwell was United captain when we lifted the FA Cup in 1963 and the Irishman would later return to Old Trafford as manager of Coventry City and Peterborough.

All of our meetings with Coventry during his time at the helm were in the league, although the Posh were vanquished fourth-round visitors on our path to another cup final, in 1976.

Manchester United 3-1 Middlesbrough Video

Manchester United 3-1 Middlesbrough

United come from behind against Middlesbrough to progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup...

Going further back, Bill Ridding and Frank Buckley both represented the club before the Second World War and later coached teams against United at Old Trafford in the cup.

Ridding, who guided Bolton to their infamous 1958 Wembley victory over United, was still Wanderers boss for a 1962 third-round clash, while Urmston-born Buckley saw his Leeds side beaten 4-0 in January 1951.