MANCHESTER- Manchester United overcame stubborn Reading resistance to book an FA Cup quarter-final berth at Old Trafford yesterday - but the victory came at the cost after Phil Jones was forced off with a first-half injury.
Selected at right-back, Jones was hurt after attempting to tackle Reading skipper Jobi McAnuff and it was immediately obvious the former Blackburn man was in considerable pain.
Jones headed straight down the tunnel and it seems the man who helped subdue Cristiano Ronaldo in the first leg of United's Champions League last-16 tie with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu faces a battle to be fit for the return on March 5.
The injury took the gloss off a victory that keeps United on track for a repeat of their historic 1999 treble, and Sir Alex Ferguson on course for a possible encounter with Rafael Benitez, whose Chelsea team must beat Middlesbrough for the right to face the Red Devils in the last eight.
The third goal of Nani's largely disappointing season and Javier Hernandez's 15th strike of the campaign saw the hosts through, although McAnuff's late effort ensured the Red Devils were never able to relax.
A goalmouth scramble after just 90 seconds saw Hernandez's shot blocked, Danny Welbeck fluff the rebound and Antonio Valencia finally head straight at Adam Federici.
The Reading goalkeeper was also forced to deny Welbeck and Ashley Young had a shot blocked before the visitors got into their stride, with Noel Hunt to the fore.
Ferguson's obvious frustration at Reading slowing the game down extended to a message apparently being sent to the ball-boys to do their jobs with a little more speed.
When Hernandez flashed home a near-post header on United's next attack, it appeared their work was complete.
Instead, McAnuff struck nine minutes from time to bring a familiar sense of nervousness to Old Trafford which only Andre Marriner's final whistle was able to ease.