Too Tinpot For TV: Why Are Bosses Wasting Yet Another Slot On Man Utd v Reading?

United will face Reading in the FA Cup for the fourth time in the last 10 years on Saturday
11:00, 28 Jan 2023

“Please give me more Manchester United versus Reading,” said nobody ever. And yet here we go again. On Saturday night on prime-time TV, we have the least prime-time football match there has probably ever been.

Let’s get the stat out of the way first. This will be the 81st of the last 82 Manchester United fixtures in the FA Cup to be televised live in the UK. That’s more than even most United fans can bear, let alone the rest of the country. 

It’s not even like their opponents are a fresh face who the Red Devils never get to play since this is the fourth time in the last 10 years that these two have been paired together in the FA Cup. All of them at Old Trafford, all of them won by United.


There is no jeopardy in this match. Reading’s only victory against Man Utd in their history came 96 years ago, with the Royals achieving just four draws in 17 meetings since then. United win these games at a canter, featuring glamorous names such as Alexander Buttner, Tom Cleverley, Tim Fosu-Mensah, Matteo Darmian and Tahith Chong. That’s just what happens. So why burn a perfectly good TV slot on this tired, unappealing fixture? 

Southampton face Blackpool this weekend in a potential upset as Mick McCarthy takes charge of the Seasiders for the first time away to a club who have one hell of a fight on to stay in the Premier League under Nathan Jones.


Elsewhere, Stoke City host fourth-tier Stevenage, high-flying Championship outfit Luton Town play League Two Grimsby Town and, perhaps best of all, League One promotion hopefuls Ipswich Town welcome Championship leaders Burnley in a clash which pits former Manchester United assistant Kieran McKenna up against legendary ex-Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany. 

Why are these ties, filled with intrigue, sub-plots and true potential for an upset, automatically overlooked for the big-ticket name of Manchester United regardless of the nature of the tie thrown the way of Erik ten Hag’s men? The selection of TV games in the FA Cup has become incredibly tiresome.

Some blame United’s decision not to defend the trophy in 2000 for the loss of the cup’s magic. But in truth it is the fact that you can comfortably predict seven of the eight TV choices in each round which has seen the FA Cup jump the shark. The second an underwhelming draw attendant such as Martin Keown or Kevin Kilbane pulls Manchester United’s ball from the big see-through pot, TV bosses are immediately drawing up their schedules without waiting for the next number to come out.

Manchester United are not the be-all-and-end-all in the FA Cup, and certainly not when they’re playing at home to Reading in what feels like an annual friendly contest at this point. The FA Cup is supposed to spark everyone’s imagination but there is absolutely none of that commodity being used in TV offices around the country. Why should we be bothered to forego a Saturday night out on the town if all they’re offering is this tripe?

So get out and do something fun with your Saturday this week. Don’t put yourself through yet another episode of the tie that’s too tinpot for TV.

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