Jose Gomes insists Manchester United are not stronger after sacking Jose Mourinho and appointing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on an interim basis.
Reading boss Jose Gomes has played down the impact made by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and claimed the identity of the Manchester United manager "doesn't matter" given the quality of their squad.
Solskjaer impact at United downplayed
Portuguese Gomes, an associate of Solskjaer's predecessor Jose Mourinho for 20 years, takes his Championship strugglers to Old Trafford on Saturday to face a United side rejuvenated in recent weeks.
Solskjaer has recorded four successive wins since taking over from Mourinho on an interim basis – matching a club record set by the great Matt Busby – and lifted the clouds that seemed to be gathering under the former Chelsea boss.
Gomes, however, was quick to highlight the role of the players in United's upturn in form.
Asked to assess their FA Cup third-round opponents, he told a media conference: "These players, and it's my opinion, even if nobody is on the bench, they can win without one [a manager].
José Gomes: "It will be a very tough game for us, but in football – anything can happen.”#MUNvREA— Reading FC (@ReadingFC) January 3, 2019
"You can't say they are stronger now to in the past. It doesn't matter the manager during the week - they can win the matches."
Gomes talked up the impact Mourinho has had on his countrymen but insisted he would not seek his advice on how to beat United.
He added: "He's a great coach, it's very difficult to achieve what he did. I don't know what happened [at United]. I respect him and, for Portuguese coaches, it's important everything he achieved, but Manchester United decided differently.
"They are playing good football, the players are happy to be playing like they are.
"It’s a new manager with different ideas, more freedom for the players. The players are showing they are comfortable in this situation with this freedom."
He's a great coach, it's very difficult to achieve what he did. I don't know what happened [at United].
Reading lie 23rd in the Championship and are without a win in 10 games but Gomes - who took over at the Madejski Stadium on December 22 - is excited at the prospect of facing a club of United's stature.
"They are one of the biggest clubs in the world," he said. "If you go to China, South America, all the kids follow and choose to play PlayStation as Manchester United.
"It's a special moment to play against these teams. The atmosphere at Old Trafford, it's like a football party, and my players must be happy to be part of it. It will be a very tough game for us but, in football, anything can happen."