Jaap Stam returns to Manchester United but his Reading side are up against plenty of history and could Big Sam’s return to Bolton turn sour?
History unkind to Royals
If Reading boss Jaap Stam fancies putting one over his former club Manchester United this weekend, he has an awful lot of history to overcome. United, the current FA Cup holders, haven’t lost to a Championship/second-tier side since Watford in the 1981/82 season and that run extends to 20 wins and four draws.
Before Leeds fans cry foul, the Whites were a League One team when they stunned United 1-0 at Old Trafford in 2010. Perhaps of greater concern to Stam is his former side’s recent record. Jose Mourinho is finally getting a tune out of the Red Devils and they’ve won their last seven games in all competitions.
They also have a League Cup semi-final date with Hull in midweek. Reading have an impressive recent record in the FA Cup after reaching the semis in 2015 and the sixth round last year but does anyone give the Royals a chance with United in this form? Mourinho will see this tournament as an obvious opportunity to put some silverware in the trophy cabinet and Arsenal (2014 & 2015) and Chelsea (2009 & 2010) have both made successful FA Cup defences in recent years.
Koeman eyes more Wembley glory
Ronald Koeman has incredibly happy memories of Wembley after scoring the goal which gave Barcelona victory over Sampdoria in the 1992 European Cup final there. It’s hard to believe now but that was their first ever win in the competition, a trophy they’ve lifted four more times since.
Koeman will try to return to Wembley this year, but this time as the manager of Everton. He’s had a mixed start to his Goodison Park career but Everton have a good FA Cup record on home soil and have won eight and drawn two of their last 11 ties on Merseyside.
Leicester are the visitors this weekend but the Toffees have another edge having won 2-0 at the King Power on Boxing Day. It’s Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri who will have European glory on his mind so Koeman looks primed to take the first step of another journey to a Wembley final.
Magpies bid to soar under Rafa
It doesn’t take a huge leap of the imagination to think that Gianfranco Zola shaking hands with Rafa Benitez just moments before kick-off would mean Real Madrid were about to take on AC Milan. Instead, these iconic figures will be in charge of Birmingham and Newcastle respectively in an all-Championship FA Cup third-round tie.
Newcastle fans have despaired at their team’s recent record in this competition as they’ve crashed out at this stage in each of the last four seasons while go a little further back and Birmingham smashed them 5-1 in a replay at St James’ Park. At least Rafa (an FA Cup winner with Liverpool in 2006) and his Newcastle side seemed to be taking this season’s League Cup seriously, going out in the quarter-finals on penalties, and only last month they crushed Blues 4-0 on Tyneside thanks to a Dwight Gayle hat-trick.
With Zola struggling to make an impact since taking charge of Birmingham, it’s a golden chance for Newcastle to progress.
Happy return for Big Sam?
Crystal Palace went all the way to the FA Cup final last year before being undone by Manchester United but new boss Sam Allardyce will certainly not have a Wembley repeat at the front of his mind when he returns to his former club Bolton. The ex-England manager (we can just about refer to him as that, can’t we?) enjoyed eight years at Bolton, guiding them to the League Cup final in 2004 and taking the Trotters to the semi-finals of the FA Cup in 2000 where they lost to Aston Villa on penalties.
Although now down in League One, Bolton are flying high in second place and their tails are up. Allardyce has failed to make an instant impact at Palace and the surprise home defeat to Swansea in midweek left the Selhurst Park side just one point above relegation. With the FA Cup hardly a priority, could Big Sam’s return to Bolton go horribly wrong?
Battle of the new bosses
They’ve both just swapped managers and they’re both in the relegation zone. It’s a brave punter who can pick the winner of Hull’s home tie with Swansea on Saturday. Hull got to the final in 2014 but have won just two of their last 23 FA Cup games against top-flight competition.
Swansea, meanwhile, have won just two of 14 away ties at top-flight opposition. Recent head-to-head history? Hull won 2-0 at Swansea on the second weekend of the Premier League season but they’ve managed just two more victories in 18 games since. The Welsh side are faring little better although at least they go into this one on the back of a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace in midweek. Both sets of fans will probably know little about their new managers – Marco Silva at Hull and Paul Clement of Swansea – so this really does look one of the riddles of the round.