Dreams of treble still on as tricky Reading safely despatched
Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez (right) celebrates scoring his side's second goal with team-mate Anderson during last night's FA Cup fifth round tie against Reading at Old Trafford. photograph: paul ellis/afp/getty images
Manchester Utd 2 Reading 1Manchester United’s dream of emulating the 1999 treble-winning team is still alive. The target is still distant but they are now safely into an FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea or Middlesbrough.
They wobbled late on when Jobi McAnuff was quicker than Alexander Buttner to a rebound to pull one back for Reading inside the last 10 minutes, but United survived.
The visitors had got to 68 minutes with the game scoreless before Nani settled home nerves. He was on hand to complete neat work from Antonio Valencia, who threaded a short pass to him inside Reading’s area: after the ball flipped up off his left boot the winger volleyed home with the other.
Before Javier Hernandez scored what proved the winner David de Gea was called upon to retain United’s advantage with a sharp save to his right from Adam Le Fondre’s attempt from yards out.
Headed home sweetly
The Mexican’s 15th of the season was created by Nani, who had begun the evening on the bench. He flew down the right then zipped over a cross and Hernandez rose and headed home sweetly.
From the manager “no slip ups” had been the pre-match message which, despite Reading’s late rally, proved the outcome.
Ferguson made eight changes for this tie. Only Phil Jones, De Gea and Danny Welbeck remained from the side that drew 1-1 at Real Madridin the Champions League.
The XI that the Scot sent out to face Brian McDermott’s team this time did feature Nemanja Vidic, whose knee was not deemed worth risking at Bernabeu. Twice during the first half the captain was called upon to clear awkward corners that dipped in from Nicky Shorey’s left boot from the right at De Gea’s goal.
Each time Vidic, who required treatment for an eye wound early in the game, stuck his head in to ensure a danger was repelled that had been Reading’s main ploy when these sides met on December 1st.
That was a chaotic league encounter which featured a seven-goal glut in the opening 34 minutes. United had emerged, relieved, on the right side of a 4-3 win. United created chances early on last night but had no one to finish. On 21 minutes Tom Cleverley blazed at Adam Federici, who saved well, then Ashley Young’s follow-up was blocked for a corner.
Before this Hernandez, the lone striker in United’s 4-2-3-1, had danced into Reading’s area before shooting and when the ball came to Antonio Valencia a weak header looped into Federici’s hands.
Ferguson began the second half prowling the technical area. Robin van Persie’s entrance as a 62nd-minute substitute for Young injected urgency into United with Anderson feeding Hernandez’s run, then moments later Nani winning another corner.
Van Persie took this but Reading cleared. Then came Nani’s decisive intervention and that Hernandez header.