Manchester United progressed to the next round of the FA Cup with a 2 – 1 win over Reading in a game, which really took off in the second half. They now await the winners of the game between Chelsea and Middlesborough, who will have to travel to Old Trafford. Goals from Javier Hernandez and substitute Nani were sufficient for the Red Devils to see off a spirited Royals side, who pulled one back through Jobi McAnuff.
It was a return to the starting lineup for Nemanja Vidic in the heart of defence for Manchester United, where he was paired with Chris Smalling, while Alexander Buttner made a rare appearance. Reading, on the other hand, went with a more predictable side, with Brian McDermott showing real intent to progress against the side, which barely edged them 4-3 in the league earlier in the season. Noel Hunt was chosen to lead the attack for the visitors.
The first real talking point of the game came just after 11 minutes from the start, when Vidic caught Hunt in the back of the head while following through on a header, leaving both players bleeding, and in need of medical attention. Vidic had a minor cut above his eyebrow and was soon back on the pitch, while Hunt had to change both shirt and shorts, having bled profusely from the back of his head, and was off the pitch for much longer.
Adam Federici was the first ‘keeper to be tested sternly when, in the 22nd minute, a shot from Cleverley drew a save at full stretch, and Ashley Young’s effort from the rebound was again parried away for a corner by the ‘keeper. A good save from the initial effort, but Young could have done much better to provide a bit of height to the shot, and give his team the lead.
Around 5 minutes from half-time, Phil Jones had to be replaced with Nani, having taken a sore knock to the ankle while going for a ball at the same time that McAnuff kicked it. The Portuguese winger slotted in at right wing, while Valencia dropped to right back. Nani nearly gave United the lead as well, with a volleyed effort from the edge of the box, which seemed to be on its way in, but hit the far post, and came back into play. This came from a swift move after De Gea had made a decent save at the opposite end, and was the closest either team got to taking the lead till the half-time whistle. Nani did take another shot at goal with his left foot before the break though, but saw it saved fairly comfortably by Federici towards his top left corner.
United began the second half with much more attacking intent, and were nearly rewarded for their sustained pressure with a well worked effort from Cleverley which was blocked in the penalty area. Reading required a clearance off the line from Noel Hunt a few minutes later, when a Vidic header took a deflection off Morrisson, and was heading into Federici’s bottom left corner. A couple of minutes later, it was the ‘keeper’s turn to help his team out with a save from a right footed Anderson shot which flew straight at him.
Amidst all this, United had a tense moment of their own, with a backward pass from Chris Smalling falling short, but De Gea was off his line quickly to clear the ball from danger. United continued to press, camping at the edge of the Reading box for a good ten minutes, before finally making the breakthrough through Nani. One of Valencia’s many good runs from right-back saw him square the ball towards Robin van Persie in the centre of the box, where it was stopped by Nani with his left foot and rifled into the net with his right. De Gea had to produce a good save from Le Fondre who made a good effort when a loose ball fell to him in the United box.
The game was virtually laid to bed in the very next move though, as United doubled their lead through Javier Hernandez. A good run towards the near post from the Mexican was picked out well with a cross by Nani, and led to Federici being beaten at his near post. Reading, however, refused to give up, especially with their recent record of late comebacks, and pulled one back with ten minutes left in the game. Vidic made a poor decision to get sucked in towards the ball, leaving McAnuff free to receive it when it rebounded from a De Gea save and slot it under the Spaniard’s arm.
With three minutes left on the clock, and Reading on the attack, United nearly grabbed their third from a counter attack. Hernandez’s effort from outside the box was blocked by Federici, and fell to the approaching Nani. The Portuguese winger’s effort from wide in the box had the Australian ‘keeper scrambling, but was wide of target, and hit the side netting.
Reading tried their best to take the game to a replay at the Madejski, with Federici landing up in the United box for a couple of set pieces near the end, but United would have the last laugh, even drawing a diving save from the ‘keeper who had retreated in time.
Result: Manchester United (Luis Nani 69’, Javier Hernandez 72’) 2 – 1 Reading (Jobi McAnuff 82’)
Where does Haaland rank in Paul Merson's 5 best Premier League transfers so far? Click here