Premier League table toppers take on strugglers Reading at Old Trafford.
Manchester United defender Jonny Evans has warned his side not to give Manchester City even a glimmer of hope in the Premier League title race.
Alex Ferguson’s side face Reading at Old Trafford in Saturday’s late kick-off knowing second placed City can trim their rivals’ lead at the top to nine points if they win at Everton earlier in the day.
Last season United let slip an eight-point lead with just six games to go, but Evans believes they have learnt from their mistakes and are determined to ensure a similar meltdown does not happen with 10 games to go this term.
“This is the business end of the season,” he said. “We are in a great position in the league. We want to make sure we don’t give City any sniff of getting back in and closing the gap on us.
“It is an important couple of weeks. At this club you have this experience on how to deal with that.
“We have all seen what happened last year so it is up to us to make sure that does not happen again.
“I know we keep saying it but I think there will be an extra determination from us this year.”
However, Evans did give City a tiny piece of good news as the centre-back admitted United have been feeling drained following their Champions League exit and FA Cup quarter-final draw with Chelsea last week.
United lost controversially to Real Madrid in the Champions League last 16 before surrendering a 2-0 lead to Chelsea at Old Trafford in the FA Cup.
“We had a couple of days off after the Chelsea game,” Evans said. “The manager decided to give us an extra day or so to rest so we came on Wednesday and got the legs going again but it wasn’t too hard out there on the training pitch.
“Obviously, I didn’t play in the Real Madrid game so I wasn’t feeling physical tiredness but, on Sunday, I did feel a bit tired and a bit drained in the second half.
“I think the mental side of it drains you. There were a lot of emotions during the week and we have to try to switch off from that and prepare for the next match.
“I think what caught us out a bit against Chelsea at the weekend was we got off to a good start but the mentally-drained side really showed in the second half.”
Meanwhile, Reading caretaker boss Eamonn Dolan has denied Russian owner Anton Zingarevich will select the team for their visit to Old Trafford.
The club’s academy director Dolan was handed the job temporarily on Monday after Brian McDermott was dismissed with the club four points from safety, prompting speculation that Zingarevich wanted to take a more hands-on role with the team.
“The owner is trying to take the club forward,” Dolan said. “I’ve not been at a club ever where the board try and pick the team. You hear about that abroad but I genuinely don’t think you hear about that in England.
“He’s asked me to pick the team. He’s spoken about trying to get a result and that’s genuinely all he said. Anton has spoken to me every day. It’s his football club. But I will also speak to Nicky Hammond who is the director of football.”
Despite McDermott leaving the club, Dolan will still seek advice from the former manager.
“Brian is a great friend of mine,” Dolan said. “I’ve spoken to him each day and I will speak to him as a friend again before the weekend. All he has said to me so far is, ‘Good luck, get a result’.
“All he wants is for Reading to get a result. That’s our aim on Saturday.”
Venue Old Trafford, Saturday 5.30pm
Last season N/A
Referee M Clattenburg
This season’s matches 17 Y54, R6, 3.53 cards per game
Subs from Lindegaard, Johnstone, Buttner, Evans, Smalling, Powell, Giggs, Anderson, Young, Hernández, Welbeck
Injured Jones (ankle, 30 Mar), Scholes (knee, 30 Mar), Fletcher (illness, unknown), Nani (hamstring, 30 Mar)
Form guide WWWWWD
Disciplinary record Y43 R0
Leading scorer Van Persie 19
Subs from McCarthy, Andersen, Gunter, Karacan, McCleary, Guthrie, Morrison, Blackman, Shorey, Carrico, Cummings, Pearce, Henley
Injured Federici (ankle, 30 Mar), Kébé (groin, 30 Mar), Roberts (hip, Aug)
Suspended Pogrebnyak (3/3)
Form guide LLLLWD
Disciplinary record Y35 R1
Leading scorer Le Fondre 10
Manchester United are unbeaten in their five previous league games against the Royals (W3, D2), all of which were Premier League fixtures in the past decade.
The Royals lost 2-1 at United in the FA Cup last month, but their last league game at Old Trafford was the opening fixture of the 2007-08 campaign, which ended in a goalless draw.
Reading’s only previous win in all competitions against Manchester United was a 2-1 home victory in the FA Cup in January 1927.
The Red Devils have failed to win their last two league and cup games, both of which were at home.
The last time they went three matches without a win was in November 2011, when they drew with Benfica and Newcastle before losing to Crystal Palace. All those games were at Old Trafford.
Robin van Persie has failed to score in his last six league and cup appearances for Manchester United, although he has completed 90 minutes only twice in that run (both ties against Real Madrid). The Dutchman has one goal in his last 10
games for club and country.
David de Gea is set to make his 50th Premier League appearance.
The referee for Saturday’s match is Mark Clattenburg, who will take charge of his first Premier League game at Old
Trafford since overseeing Manchester City’s 6-1 win there in October 2011.
Reading’s tally of 23 points from 29 games is lower than at the corresponding stage of their two previous Premier League campaigns (they had 43 points in 2006-07 and 28 in 2007-08).
They have lost 12 of their last 18 top-flight fixtures.
The Royals have claimed five points away from home this term – the lowest tally in the division.
Man United 25/1 to win 6-0: Man United Vs Reading Betting