Manchester United booked their place in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup with a 2-1 home win against Premier League opponents Reading. Second half goals from Nani and Javier Hernandez were enough to see United through in spite of a late goal for Reading by Jobi McAnuff.
Sir Alex Ferguson made wholesale changes to his team with only goalkeeper David de Gea, Phil Jones and Danny Welbeck retained from the side that faced Real Madrid.
Chicharito started up front with Welbeck, Anderson and Tom Cleverley came into central midfield while Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young donned the flanks.
Club captain Nemanja Vidic made his return to central defence in the company of Chris Smalling while Phil Jones relocated to right back and Alexander Buttner replaced Patrice Evra at left back. Regulars Robin van Persie, Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick all started on the bench, while Evra, Rafael, Jonny Evans and Wayne Rooney sat out altogether.
United started slowly, gradually working their way into the game as Reading were content to get bodies behind the ball and keep the game level for as long as possible.
The first real chance of the game came on 23 minutes when Cleverley let fly from just outside the box after the ball was neatly worked to him from the right by Jones and Valencia. Adam Federici saved the effort and off the rebound Ashley Young looked to pounce, but the flag had gone up for offside.
The first half continued to remain sluggish with United lacking incisiveness in the final third. On 41 minutes, Jones suffered a hard tackle and had to be subbed off as he looked to be moving gingerly. Portuguese winger Nani, who has seen few opportunities this season came on as Valencia went to right back. His first contribution was a superb first time volley from outside the box that clattered off the far post as Federici’s punch to keep out Welbeck’s effort fell to the Portuguese.
United came out much more positive in the second half with their midfield duo of Anderson and Cleverley beginning to exert more of an influence on the game. Anderson drove the Red Devils forward with his runs and crisp passing that opened up the Reading defence, United going ever closer to breaking the deadlock.
Nani who looked sharp and menacing from the get go added much more impetus to United’s attack posing a bigger threat to Reading as the game went on. It was the Portuguese winger who gave United lead on 69 minutes as he took Valencia’s cut back on the run and toe poked it past Federici who was finally beaten. United doubled their advantage minutes later when Nani turned provider, whipping in a devilish cross from the right that Chicharito headed in.
United had further chances to tuck the game away, but Welbeck and Nani fluffed their efforts and after some lapse defending McAnuff pulled one back for the Royals. Sensing the danger, Ferguson brought on Carrick in place of Anderson to tighten things up and hold the ball in midfield which helped the hosts eventually see out the game safely.
Manchester United will face the winners of the clash between Chelsea and Middlesbrough in the last eight.
PLAYERS OF THE MATCH:
Anderson – drove Manchester United forward from midfield and was instrumental in lifting the performance in the second half.
Nani - provided a spark to the side when he came on for the injured Jones and provided more of a threat from the right than earlier from Antonio Valencia.
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