Man United 2 (Nani 68, Hernandez 71)
Reading 1 (McAnuff 81)
A battling performance from the Royals wasn’t enough to prevent runaway league leaders Manchester United from sealing a place in the FA Cup Quarter Final.
After holding the home side for the best part of 70 minutes, United took the lead via a deflected Nani strike, before Javier Hernandez seemingly put the tie beyond doubt three minutes later by ghosting to the near post to head home a second.
But yet again that fighting Reading spirit took hold, as captain Jobi McAnuff coolly slotted past David De Gea after Adam Le Fondre had distracted the Red Devils’ defence.
The visitors bombarded the goal in the dying seconds, but couldn’t quite test the Spanish ‘keeper again – as United were left to go in search of another historic treble.
Manchester United:De Gea, Smalling, Buttner, Jones (Nani 42), Vidic (c); Anderson (Carrick 83), Cleverley, Young (Van Persie 64), Valencia, Hernandez, Welbeck
Subs: Lindegaard, Ferdinand, Carrick, Giggs, Nani, Kagawa, van Persie
Reading: Federici, Kelly, Shorey, Mariappa, Morrison, Karacan, Leigertwood (Guthrie 64), McAnuff (C), McCleary (Robson-Kanu 68), Hunt, Le Fondre
Subs: Andersen, Gunter, Pearce, Carrico, Guthrie, Robson-Kanu, Pogrebnyak
Booked: Hunt (foul 55)
Attendance: 75,213 (1149)
A bright opening minute from the home side saw Mexcian international Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck both having efforts blocked after a quick series of passes inside the 18 yard box.
Quick feet from Ashley Young then released Welbeck down the left channel – and the England international managed a snapshot from a very tight angle, but Federici did well to palm away.
The Royals did show endeavour themselves, a wonderful swerving free-kick from Nicky Shorey almost falling to Sean Morrison six yards from goal – only for the giant centre half to be denied by a brave header from Nemanja Vidic.
If that was brave – then at the other end a double stop from Federici was nothing short of stupendous. The Australian went down low to his right to push away Tom Cleverley’s 20 yard effort, before leaping up to tip away Young’s follow up.
Boyhood United fan Adam Le Fondre had spoken in the pre match build up of relishing the ‘dream come true’ of playing at Old Trafford – and looked alert a minute before half time as he cracked a drive in from distance, which was well held by De Gea.
Substitute Nani almost went one better moments later, lashing an unstoppable volley towards goal which cannoned off Federici’s post and away from danger.
The Portuguese star tried again in first half stoppage time, this time curling one from 25 yards which the alert Federici again did well to claw away.
United started the second half as brightly as they had the first, but the Royals weathered the initial storm.
A Vidic header was diverted away by Morrison, before Anderson’s shot was stopped by Federici.
With 63 minutes on the clock Alex Ferguson called for Robin Van Persie, with the prolific Dutchman replacing Young to a huge ovation from the home support.
Nani continued to threaten – smashing another long distance shot inches wide of the post.
And indeed it was the Portuguese who eventually broke Reading’s stubborn deadlock, controlling and firing home a deflected effort after a cutback from Antonio Valencia.
Not deterred, the visitors looked to hit back straight away. Great strength from substitute Hal Robson-Kanu allowed Karacan to loop a cross into the box, where the predatory Le Fondre spun and forced a smart reflex save from David De Gea.
Then, in an instant, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men took the tie away from their opponents. Nani the provider this time, clipping a ball into the area which Hernandez headed home with aplomb.
But even Sir Alex Ferguson had warned about Reading’s late rallies – and the boys from Berkshire showed their spirit again, as a brave diving header from Le Fondre distracted United’s defence sufficiently for captain McAnuff to ghost in and coolly slot past De Gea.
From that moment on the Royals had their tails up in search of an equaliser, with Hernandez’s breakaway effort the only real respite for the home side.
Sean Morrison’s long throws caused havoc, even Federici trotted up field for a couple of late set pieces – but ultimately it wasn’t to be on this occasion, as another superb stop from the Australian at the other end proved to be the last action of the game.