Reading boss Paul Ince returns to Old Trafford to face Manchester United in FA Cup fourth round

Paul Ince from player to manager. Credit: PA

Reading boss Paul Ince will be returning to his old stomping ground of Old Trafford this Saturday (28 January) in their 4th round FA Cup fixture vs Manchester United. 

This however is not his first return to Old Trafford.

Much like with Reading this season, the first-ever black Premier League manager had a positive start at Blackburn Rovers in the 2008/09 season.

This was just two years after his first management job at Swindon Town as player manager.

Feelings would turn by December however, with his first-ever managerial return to his former club becoming the catalyst for him to lose his job.

After a 5-3 defeat in the League Cup on 3 December, fans were heard chanting “We want Incey out” and “You don’t know what you’re doing”.

Ince was sacked just 13 days later on 16 December, leaving his side sitting 19th in the table.

Paul Ince's sideline discontent as Blackburn Rovers manager Credit: PA/EMPICS

With Reading having only one win in the last five games, Ince will be hoping history will not repeat itself.

Speaking on the big occasion, Ince said: "Forget Manchester United, you've got to prepare for the atmosphere. There are probably 70,000 fans there, on a Saturday night at 8 o'clock.

"You have to be prepared for the atmosphere Old Trafford brings, which is something most of these players haven't experienced.

"It's more about that mentally than playing the game."

Old Trafford Night Match. Credit: Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport

"It's tough. Fortunately for me, I'm one of the lucky ones to walk out at Old Trafford, in a full house. It can be intimidating when you've not done it before.

"You can get stuck in the lights. These are the things I'll be talking to my players about. What I've experience and what you're going to experience."

For the Royals to stand a chance against Erik Ten Hag's in form Reds, midfielder and son Tom Ince will have a big role to play.

With veteran striker Andy Carroll only just coming back from injury and neither Lucas João or Yakou Méïté making the striker position theirs, Tom has been called upon to play in a more advanced role in recent matches.

Paul on his son Tom: "Thomas understands the demands and standards I put on him, and reflects that on his teammates. He shouts and moans a lot but because he wants to win, he's like me, he's got my DNA."

Tom Ince under fathers management. Credit: Kieran Cleeves/PA Wire/PA Images

Whether the father and son duo will receive a hostile, warm or indifferent reception from the Stretford End remains to be seen.

The Royals boss played 260 games and scored 27 goals during a six year spell for the Red Devils.

Ince ran the 2 man midfield with teammate Bryan Robson when United won the Premier League Title in the 1992/93 season, ending the club’s 26-year wait for another League Title.

This being the first-ever Premier League season, it established him as one of its first stars as, “Paul Ince, the guv’nor”.

Midfield duo Paul Ince and Bryan Robson celebrate goal in FA Cup semi-final replay. Credit: PA

The great times would only last another couple of seasons however, as Manchester United were beaten to both the Premier League and FA Cup in 1994/95.

This prompted manager Sir Alex Ferguson to accept a bid of £7.5 million from Italian side Inter Milan for the dynamic midfielder. 

Whilst not winning any trophies at Internazionale Milano, the Nerazzurri faithful admired the hard-working midfielder, who put in a World-Class performance in the Milan Derby.

Despite his outspoken love for the Italian outfit, Ince yearned for a move back to his country after two years away.

Paul Ince collecting Runners-Up medal after losing UEFA Cup 1996/97 final versus Schalke 04 Credit: Matthew Ashton/EMPICS Sport

With the class of 92’ now breaking out with the likes of David Beckham and Paul Scholes, the Theatre of Dreams was no longer a place Paul Ince could call home. 

Still possessing a desire for trophies, Ince made a shock move to rivals Liverpool in 1997, who finished 4th the season before, whilst United had won the title.

A similar story of his time in Italy unfolded during his two seasons on Merseyside - winning no trophies there despite still being a good player for the side.

There was however much less love for the Scousers than for the Milanesi, who were conflicted due to his United heritage. 

Reports say that Ince never fit in with the dressing room at Liverpool, thinking that the so-called ‘Spice boys’ in the squad went out partying too much. 

Paul Ince scoring and celebrating an 89th minute equaliser for Liverpool versus his former club. Credit: Clive Brunskill /Allsport

The midfielder was sold to Middlesborough in 1999, after being put on the transfer list by Manager Gérard Houllier due to a falling out between the two.

Whether the two-year stint at the rivals of Manchester United was worth it for Ince is debatable.

The 55-year-old's once partner in midfield Roy Keane has spoken of the move perhaps "tarnishing his legacy".

Whilst not being seen as a traitor figure like Sol Campbell for signing for Arsenal directly from Tottenham Hotspur, Jamie Carragher suggests Ince has almost become a ‘forgotten man’ of the Premier League and Manchester United fans. 

This however did not stop Keane from putting Ince into his all-time Manchester United XI, ahead of the likes of Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt.