FA Cup: Manchester United 2 Reading 1
Manchester United booked their place in the sixth round of the FA Cup after victory over Reading at Old Trafford on Monday.
Second-half goals by Nani and Javier Hernandez were enough for the hosts to claim the win, despite a late goal from Jobi McAnuff, as they march on to face either Chelsea or Middlesbrough.
United got off to a flying start and might have opened the scoring in the opening minutes. Almost straight from the kick-off, Hernandez saw a low shot blocked but neither Danny Welbeck nor Antonio Valencia were able to slot the loose ball home.
Welbeck went close a minute late, some clever work by Ashley Young saw him slip the ball through to the striker whose low shot was saved by Adam Federici.
Yet Reading slowly came back into the game, pressing United high up the pitch and looking a real threat at set pieces.
United had the returning Nemanja Vidic to thank on 17 minutes as the centre-back did superbly to head Nicky Shorey's free-kick to safety with Sean Morrison poised to head home.
As the first half drew to a close United were forced into a change with Phil Jones hobbling off, after a strong challenge by Jobi McAnuff.
Substitute Nani made an instant impact on the game, smashing a right-footed volley across goal and onto the post before forcing Federici into another good stop with a stinging left-footed shot as the hosts ended the half strongly.
Sir Alex Ferguson's side emerged after the interval with a greater tempo but struggled to convert their momentum into clear-cut chances, leading to the arrival of Robin van Persie for Young just after the hour mark.
The Dutchman's arrival helped United take almost complete control of the game, forcing Reading further and further back until finally the visitors' resistance was broken.
With 69 minutes on the clock, Valencia carried the ball down the right, before passing to Nani in the box for the Portuguese to control before poking past Federici to break the deadlock.
Minutes later and the game appeared effectively over as a contest as United grabbed a second.
Again the danger came down the right, this time through goalscorer Nani who crossed for Hernandez to nod home at the near post.
Yet with 10 minutes to go a lapse in concentration in the United defence set up a nervous finale after McAnuff pounced on some loose defending to drive past David De Gea from close range.
Reading have made late comebacks their speciality at times this season but on this occasion there was to be no fairytale as United held on to continue to fight on three fronts.