John Welsh

What: English FA Cup – Fifth Round
Who: Manchester United vs Reading
When: Monday 18th February, 20.00 UK Time
Live on: ESPN

After gaining a creditable draw at Real Madrid in midweek, Manchester United turn their attention to the FA Cup in which they will face a Reading team that has demonstrated much improved form since Christmas.

With their hopes of winning another Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup treble still intact, Manchester United will be determined to win this cup tie. Having won ten successive league matches at Old Trafford they are priced at 1.25 (1/4) with Paddy Power to win this match, but more interesting odds are available for their winning margin. Victory by two goals is 4.25 (13/4) at Ladbrokes, with Skybet quoting 2.38 (11/8) on three goals or more.

The strikers charged with scoring the necessary goals will be a difficult choice for Sir Alex Ferguson. Robin van Persie may again be rested as per the last two FA Cup matches, but Javier Hernandez has started every cup game. Hernandez is 2.00 (Evens) with Ladbrokes to claim a goal and 6.00 (5/1) with Betfred to repeat his brace from the previous round. He is also 5.00 (4/1) with Blue Square to be the first goalscorer. Expect Wayne Rooney to feature at some point having netted in both rounds so far and he is 1.83 (5/6) with Stan James to score.

For Reading, much will depend upon whether they field a full-strength team with Premier League survival their priority. They remain in the bottom three, but last week's defeat at Stoke was their first loss since New Year's Day. Betvictor quote them at 12.00 (11/1) to cause an upset and win the match, but their away form in the Premier League is particularly poor with ten defeats in 13 fixtures and a solitary win, last month at Newcastle. There are odds available of 2.20 (6/5) with Ladbrokes with for them winning with a two-goal start.

The Royals are particularly indebted to the form of their strikers Adam Le Fondre, Jimmy Kebe and Pavel Pogrebnyak in recent weeks. Le Fondre has claimed two vital braces against Chelsea and Newcastle, scoring the last goal on each occasion. He is 6.00 (5/1) with Coral to add another goal and 13.00 (12/1) at Ladbrokes to be the last goalscorer. Kebe and Pogrebnyak can be backed at 8.00 (7/1) and 6.00 (5/1) respectively with William Hill to score at any time, and Noel Hunt, who has scored in each of the previous rounds, is 7.00 (6/1) at Ladbrokes to net in this match.

Manchester United are expected to be comfortable winners, although the league fixture at Reading finished 4-3 to the Red Devils. Over 3.5 goals in this game is available at 2.00 (Evens) with Ladbrokes while Manchester United only scoring is 2.15 (23/20) with William Hill.

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