Football

Blind: Old Trafford now a Theatre of Fear

United defender Blind says teams should feel intimidated at Old Trafford

THIRD ROUND
MAN UNITED READING

The fear factor is back.

Manchester United are unbeaten in their last 13 matches and are also peerless at home, having not lost at Old Trafford since a 2-1 defeat by Manchester City on Sept 10 last year.

Defender Daley Blind feels that Jose Mourinho has turned the Theatre of Dreams into the Theatre of Fear as opponents dread making the trip to Old Trafford.

"I think we're in great form now, and we have to keep that spirit going. It's a good feeling," Blind was quoted as saying by the Mirror.

"It can be difficult against lower-league opposition. You cannot underestimate them as they always have players who can make a difference.

"But we're at home and clubs don't like to come to Old Trafford. We have to keep it that way."

United start their defence of the FA Cup tonight, when former defender Jaap Stam leads his Reading side - currently flying high in the Championship in third place - to his former stomping ground for the third-round clash.

LAST SEASON

United saw off League One sides Sheffield United and Shrewsbury Town, and Championship outfit Derby County on their way to a 12th FA Cup win last season and midfielder Ander Herrera believes the club are obliged to defeat lower-tier opponents at home.

Clubs don’t like to come to Old Trafford. We have to keep it that way.” Man United’s Daley Blind

"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," the Spaniard told MUTV of their promotion-chasing opposition.

"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."

A run of six successive Premier League victories has put United into a good position to challenge for Champions League qualification over the second half of the season.

Ironically, the biggest threat to league progress may yet turn out to be cup success.

United are still in two other knock-out competitions, with the first leg of their League Cup semi-final against Hull City coming on Wednesday morning (Singapore time) and a Europa League Round-of-32 tie against Saint Etienne next month.

With fixture congestion a significant possibility, Mourinho must decide whether to make changes against Reading.

He is likely to have midfielder Michael Carrick available again after recent illness, while captain Wayne Rooney is back in training after missing three matches with a thigh problem.

Centre back Eric Bailly is unavailable, having joined up with the Ivory Coast for the African Nations Cup.

Various media outlets reported yesterday that midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin underwent a medical yesterday ahead of a move to Everton.

The 27-year-old is believed to be looking to leave Old Trafford due to a lack of game time under Mourinho.

But, according to the Manchester Evening News, the two clubs are yet to agree a fee.

FOND OF FONTE?

Meanwhile, United may make a move for Southampton captain Jose Fonte after the central defender handed in a transfer request.

Despite suggestions Southampton were prepared to give the Portuguese only an increased salary and not a lengthier term, the club are adamant he has rejected a 12-month extension to the present one he signed in October 2015 and which expires in 18 months.

Fonte wrote on Instagram last month: "Just to set the record straight, I did not reject a new contract.

"In fact, I have been informed by Southampton that they are not offering me a new contract."

The 33-year-old is a reported transfer target for United, who are left with only three fit senior central defenders since Bailly's call-up to the African Nations Cup.

Everton, who are coached by former Southampton manager Ronald Koeman, has also been linked to Fonte. - WIRE SERVICES

FA CupManchester United