Reading v Manchester United – Match Preview

Manchester United head to Reading on Saturday hoping to maintain their momentum as the busy Christmas and New Year period looms.
Having fought out a 1-0 win over West Ham on Wednesday to notch their second consecutive English Premier League victory, United face seven games up until January 2 in what could be a crucial period in deciding this season’s title.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have a relatively easy festive period and will face four teams who currently occupy the bottom seven places in the standings.
“With no international football and our last (Champions League) group game next Wednesday, it gives us a further chance to concentrate on the league,” Ferguson said after Manchester United’s win over West Ham.
Antonio Valencia could return to United’s squad for the trip to Reading having been left out against West Ham due to a hip injury but Nani, Shinji Kagawa and Nemanja Vidic are still unavailable.
Reading lost both their matches in the past week, going down to Aston Villa and Wigan in clashes that already had the air of relegation six-pointers. Brian McDermott’s team shipped four goals in those two fixtures and will face a tough task up against the leading scorers in the league.
United have scored 33 goals in 14 games to sit atop of the Premier League, one point ahead of City, while Reading are second from bottom. Robin van Persie leads Ferguson’s team with nine goals, just one behind golden boot leader Luis Suarez of Liverpool, while Javier Hernandez has five strikes to his name.
Reading have conceded 23 goals this season with only Southampton, Queens Park Rangers and Wigan having let in more.
One positive at the back for Reading in the past month has been goalkeeper Adam Federici, having started the season with a couple of howlers and being dropped to the bench as a result, the Australian has fought his way back into the starting line-up and has started the past four games.

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson: Chelsea are still Premier League ...

Sir Alex Ferguson is refusing to rule Chelsea out of the Premier League title race despite Manchester United's seven-point lead and the Stamford Bridge revolt against interim boss Rafa Benitez. 
United and second-placed Manchester City extended their advantage over Chelsea in midweek after Benitez's second game in charge ended in another goalless draw. 
But Ferguson believes it is too early in the a season to declare a two-horse race.
Out of sorts: Chelsea haven't tasted victory in their last six Premier League games
Out of sorts: Chelsea haven't tasted victory in their last six Premier League games
'It's coming to the end of November and I don't think you can be certain of saying it's going to be a two-horse race at this time,' he said. 
'Over the years we've always hoped that the top five or six are all capable of winning the league but eventually it ends up a two-horse race. It's been like that for years, and last season there was big gap between ourselves and City. 
'The important thing is to look at yourselves. You want to stay up there every time and it's not an easy league to do that.' 
Tough battle: Ferguson expects Reading to put up a stern test
Tough battle: Ferguson expects Reading to put up a stern test
United were given a sharp reminder of that when they lost at Norwich a fortnight ago and Ferguson expects another tough battle at Reading tomorrow. 
'Away games are getting more difficult,' he added. 'Norwich was a good example of that. They fought like tigers and were really motivated. It was a difficult day for us.
'We expected another difficult game like Norwich tomorrow. The job Brian McDermott has done there is excellent. It took him a little bit of time to get his ideas across but in the second half of last season came from nowhere to win the league.'

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Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson: Chelsea are still Premier League ...

Ferguson ready for United, Manchester City title slog

MANCHESTER - Alex Ferguson predicts a long, hard Premier League title race with champions Manchester City after his Manchester United team opened up a seven-point gap over rivals Chelsea.
Table-toppers United ground out a 1-0 victory over West Ham at Old Trafford thanks to Robin van Persie scoring the fastest goal of the Premier League season to date, after only 33 seconds. It was only the third clean sheet United have kept in domestic football this season and ended a worrying trend of the team having conceded first in nine of their opening 13 league games.
And while it was a far from vintage performance, it was a vital one given that City's victory at Wigan kept the defending champions just one point behind.
"The three points means we're still ahead in the league and, with Chelsea drawing, it draws us away from them a little bit further," said veteran United manager Ferguson. "But City are on our tails. It's going to be a long season. "The importance of winning 1-0 in certain games is your opponents know the resilience is there.
"If you look at some of the really important one-nil we've had, go back to beating Newcastle when they were nine points clear of us (in 1996).  "Our 1-0 that night won us the league. There are important 1-0 victories. We've had many of them."
Given the scarcity of clean sheets for United this term, the fact his side were able to keep West Ham at bay for such a long period gave Ferguson as much pleasure as the large points cushion he enjoys over European champions Chelsea and their new manager Rafael Benitez. "It is particularly hard, when you take the lead after one minute, to keep a clean sheet over the remaining 90-plus minutes, with time added on," said Ferguson. "But in the main I thought we defended very well."
Ferguson paid particular tribute to young Brazilian full-back Rafael and fit-again central defender Chris Smalling, who was starting a game for just the third time this season.
"Chris came into the team and did very well after a few weeks out and Jonny Evans was magnificent," he said. "There were a lot of plus points tonight, particularly with the defending because you have to against West Ham because they are such a handful. We had to be at our best for the whole 90 minutes. "Rafael is maturing; he's 22 years of age now. He came here as a young boy, he was in the first team at 17-18, and made a lot of rash mistakes because he was such an enthusiastic boy. He is maturing and learning now."
Van Persie now has nine goals in just 12 league starts this term and Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo's joint record for a 38-match Premier League season -- 31 goals -- will be under threat if he maintains this form.
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce certainly believes that, whether van Persie sets records or not, his goals could see United to the title.
"He's going to score 20-odd, maybe 30 goals," he said. "In the end, that's normally the difference, if you sort your defensive side out.
"It's not so long ago, a couple of seasons that Man United went 14 games without conceding a goal and that won them the league.
"Van Persie is a quality player, no doubt about that, though we kept him quiet tonight.
"United have got lots of players who will have good spells, lot of players who will come up trumps, and that's what makes them so good."