Ander Herrera: This is what Manchester United must do under Jose Mourinho

by Leo Nieboer

Ander Herrera has been looking ahead to the FA Cup third round clash with Reading, insisting that the home side ought to be wary of the threat posed by former red Jaap Stam’s men on Saturday.

Man United haven’t lost an FA Cup game to a side outside of the Premier League since January 2010 and head into the game buoyed by a seven game winning run.

Stam – now in charge of a Reading side sitting 3rd in the Championship – makes his first visit to Old Trafford since being controversially sold by Sir Alex Ferguson in 2001.

And Herrera, speaking ahead of the game, made it clear that Jose Mourinho’s men will have to watch out for the danger posed by Reading’s nothing-to-lose mentality.

“I have already played against Championship teams at home,” Herrera said. 

“Middlesbrough beat us last season, for example, so we have to respect Reading. It’s a big day for them: they come with, to be honest, nothing to lose and that makes them even more dangerous.

“But we are United, we have to fight for every trophy and at home against Reading we have the obligation to try to win, to score goals and to get to the next round.

“They are a strong team and are high in the table so it will be difficult, but it’s a big tournament for us and we want to get to the next round.

“Jaap Stam was an important player for this club and now he manages Reading so he will know how to motivate his players, which means they will be dangerous.

“It’s a fantastic trophy and fantastic tournament. I will never forget winning it because it was my first trophy with United at Wembley.

“It was a fantastic day for us, we scored in the last five or 10 minutes, Jesse scored a fantastic goal, we had 10 men, it was a special day.

“When you think about the way you want to win then of course you want to win earlier and be more relaxed at the end. But the feeling after the game when you score in the last few minutes is fantastic, especially with 10 men against a good side.”

Taking on a Championship side at home usually leads to the same kind of contest: Man United camped in the oppositon’s half, tirelessly trying to find gaps in the their tightly packed defensive frontier, anxiously navigating their way around a rigid two-banks-of-four system whilst remaining wary of an imminent counter-attack. Such was the case against Middlesbrough and Sheffield United (a League One side) last season.

But anybody who has watched Reading this season will know that Stam employs an entirely different approach. This is a side that places emphasis on patient, possession based football, often starting from the goalkeeper and moving gradually up the pitch until the right moment comes to exploit any gap left by the opposition.

Will Stam, even against a side of Man United’s calibre, stick to his principles, or will he look to frustrate Mourinho in a more traditional way on Saturday?

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