Ferguson praises Nani impact
Sir Alex Ferguson has praised Manchester United winger Nani for providing a selection headache at Old Trafford by pressing his case to start with a decisive cameo in the 2-1 FA Cup victory over Reading.
Nani, 26, came off the bench to score one goal and create another as Manchester United set up a quarter-final clash with either Chelsea or Middlesbrough.
Ferguson claims he had a feeling his substitute would prove the match-winner when he sent Nani on to replace the injured Phil Jones after 42 minutes.
"He's got great talent and I had a feeling he would win the game for us," he said. "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.
"I think he deserved that. His contribution was terrific. When he came on he had some great strikes. He hit the post, one the goalkeeper saved. In the second half, he scored the opening goal."
Nani, who has endured a frustrating season, was forced to begin the match from the sidelines, even though Ferguson made eight changes from the team who held Real Madrid in the Bernabeu.
But Ferguson admitted that the Portugal international is in contention for a starting place, saying: "If he keeps that form up it makes my job even more difficult."
Nani was voted man of the match by ESPN viewers and insists he is not disgruntled by the lack of first team opportunities this season, instead focusing on proving himself when given the chance.
"I think everyone is always ready to help the team. I always think like that. If I get my opportunity I just want to get on and try to help the team," he told ESPN.That's what happened, and I am very happy for this night.
"Yeah, I tried a lot [of attempts on goal]. Eventually I scored the first goal, that changed the game, and I'm so pleased to give one assist to Chicha [Chicharito] and help the team on this big win today."
Ferguson reserved some praise for striker Javier Hernandez, who netted his 15th goal in 22 games for United this season.
"That's 15 goals he has got us this season," Ferguson said. "The great thing about Chicharito is his energy and enthusiasm for football is fantastic."
But the Mexico international preferred to deflect the attention to team-mate Nani and the defensive reslience of his side, turning his attention to this weekend's Premier League match against QPR rather than the FA Cup quarter-finals.
"We know that it would be very difficult thankfully we scored twice, so we are very happy," he said. "We were struggling in the last few minutes because Reading really went for it but we were able to hang on. We knew that the rival in front [of us] was a very difficult one, and thankfully we scored twice in the last minutes.
"We were struggling a little bit because they wanted to score the draw one [equaliser], but we're very happy because we get through. I think his [Nani] first touch he almost scored an unbelievable volley, so he was brilliant today. He scored, he made a few chances for us and the assist to me.
"I think we wanted to be respectful with them because they are a very good team throughout and they do the best to try to get the draw, to get the other match [replay] in their house, but like Nani said we're happy, we're really pleased with the result. Right now we need to start thinking about QPR because we want to keep that gap that we have in the league."