Nani comes out of the cold to help Man Utd to Cup victory
'I had a feeling he would win it for us,' says Fergie after winger scores one and creates the other
Manchester United 2 Reading 1. Nani reminded the world of his talents as Manchester United fought off a spirited Reading last night to reach the last eight of the FA Cup.
The Portuguese winger has rarely featured this season at Old Trafford and he started on the bench despite manager Alex Ferguson fielding a weakened XI. Of the side that held Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw in the Champions League last week, only David de Gea, Phil Jones and Danny Welbeck retained their places, and it was Jones who limped off three minutes before the break.
On came Nani with the game deadlocked at 0-0 and with United struggling to break down a Reading side for whom goalkeeper Adam Federici was outstanding.
The breakthrough came on 69 minutes when Antonio Valencia picked out Nani and the Portuguese unleashed a thunderous drive into the corner of the net. Three minutes later United doubled their advantage when Nani's cross was headed home by Javier Hernandez.
Reading clawed their way back into contention when Jobi McAnuff bundled the ball home on 81 minutes but United held on to reach the quarter-finals and a clash with the winner of the Chelsea and Middlesbrough tie.
"We have a home tie and it can't get any better than that," said Ferguson later, who then showered praise on Nani, despite rumours in recent weeks suggesting he's in a contract stand–off with the club. "Nani's got great talent and I had a feeling he would win the game for us," said Ferguson. "You could see he was right on form and he had two great strikes straight away and he was a threat to them the whole night."
Asked if Nani's performance would make him more of a regular in the United side, Ferguson replied: "If he keeps that form up it makes my job even more difficult."
Pleased as he was with the night's work, Ferguson will wake this morning concerned over the health of Phil Jones. The England defender was seen leaving Old Trafford on crutches after going down in a challenge with McAnuff. Ferguson will be keeping his fingers crossed that it's nothing serious.
The 20-year-old Jones was a rock in defence against Real Madrid last week, and United need his reassuring presence at the back when the two sides meet in the second leg on 5 March.
"We will have to assess it," said Ferguson. "It is an ankle injury so I would imagine he would not be ready for Saturday [against QPR in the league] and we will see what he is like after that."