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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
Read

Pulis impressed by Royals' form

Stoke City boss Tony Pulis has saluted Reading's thrilling recent revival and hailed it as a fitting reward for his managerial counterpart Brian McDermott.

Stoke City are next in line for Reading and Pulis is well aware of the challenge that lies in store for his side at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.

"They've had a great run of results and shown real spirit by scoring so many late goals," he said. "It's remarkable really and Brian will be pleased with the belief they have shown. I'm pleased for him getting Manager of the Month. He's a smashing football guy. Reading have been his club and it's lovely seeing him run the club in the way that he is.

"They are a different side to the one we faced down there on the first day of the season, that's for sure, but they were in the Premier League before we were in it. They dropped out and have come back."

Stoke are now in their fifth season in the top flight and are being hailed as a role model for clubs winning promotion from the Championship.

"That's a compliment to the chairman and everybody involved in putting the building blocks in place," the manager added. "It's nice when people give you compliments. But it's not just about the front of the house here - we're developing at the back of the house as well and that will serve the club over the next 20 or 30 years. But you must not get complacent. That's the biggest danger."

Stoke are without a league victory since beating Liverpool on Boxing Day, having also lost in the FA Cup at home to Manchester City.

Pulis is not overly concerned, though, given that the six-game winless run in the league has included trips to City and Arsenal and a home clash with Chelsea.

"We've had a tough run, like we had at the start of the season," he said. "We're still tenth and we're pleased but we need to win a few games.

"You're going to get spells like this. We've also played Man City in the cup - and beating Liverpool on Boxing Day was a great result. The quicker we get to 40 points, the better. Then we'll take a view from there.

"You just draw on the fact you've been through these periods of having it tough. I've managed at the bottom of the league as well and it's a lot tougher down there.

"I accept you will have good and bad spells and you have to treat them the same. Reading were written off and now they're out of the relegation zone and everybody is saying they're going to stay up. We played really well last weekend (at Arsenal), as we had against Wigan for 65 minutes. Let's see now if we can push on."

Pulis is looking forward to being able to call on Marc Wilson again after the left-back this week made his comeback from a broken leg.

Stoke have been short of cover in the position and have made do by switching the likes of Geoff Cameron, Andy Wilkinson, Dean Whitehead and Matthew Etherington to the No. 3 role.

They were disappointed not to strengthen in that area in the transfer window, having also been pipped by West Bromwich Albion last summer to the signing of Goran Popov.

"The balance hasn't been right," Pulis admitted. "We have tried ever so hard to correct it and it has left us unbalanced. To have him back is a real bonus because I rate him one of the best players at the club."

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