Manchester United 2-1 Reading: Nani Inspires FA Cup Win (VIDEO)

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Nani sprang off the substitutes' bench to score one goal and assist Javier Hernández's winner as Manchester United defeated Reading 2-1 to reach the FA Cup quarter-final stage. On a personal level, the Portuguese may have salvaged his Old Trafford career.

It may transpire that a Phil Jones injury was the turning point. Although injured for a good portion of the season, murmurs of the odd confrontation with Sir Alex Ferguson and his contract expiring next summer have earmarked Nani for a transfer. His part in last season's Manchester derby loss at City - when he failed to dominate Gaël Clichy - has also apparently been held against him.

However so poor have United's wingers been this season Nani's man of the match display has given Ferguson cause for hope again. So disenchanted with the Portuguese, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young has the Scot been this term that Danny Welbeck and Shinji Kagawa have started wide against Liverpool and Real Madrid.

Valencia, in particular, has arguably been United's worst player of the season and Nani has been hard done by in recent weeks. He was not even a substitute in Madrid.

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Nani offered Ferguson a timely reminder

The performance against Reading though was a reminder of the 26-year-old's mercurial class and his manager could not contain his delight at another masterful substitution.

"His contribution was terrific," Ferguson enthused with a caveat. "If he keeps that form, it makes my job more difficult."

That form has been too inconsistent. Nani has been with United for over five-and-a-half-years but still tends to infuriate his manager and a crowd not opposed to venting their thoughts about him.

He has found himself at a similar crossroads before in the 2009-10 campaign. Struggling in the post-Cristiano Ronaldo era, January performances against Hull, Arsenal and Manchester City galvanised him and he was one of United's best performers in their 19th title winning season the following year.

With United competing in three competitions still and Ferguson conscious of the club's fondness for wingers, Nani could emerge as a pivotal asset over the next three months.