Roberto Mancini looked ahead to a ''great semi-final'' against FA Cup opponents Manchester United before admitting it will be next year before his Manchester City side can compete at the same level as their neighbours.
In Mancini's short time at City alone, the Blues have suffered four agonising defeats to the men from Old Trafford, the latest coming last month when Wayne Rooney's wonder goal settled matters.
Now Mancini's side have another opportunity to redress the balance slightly after Micah Richards' 73rd-minute winner allowed them to stride past Reading and book a last-four meeting with Sir Alex Ferguson's men at Wembley on April 16 or 17.
But the Italian insists it will be next season before big-spending City can really regard themselves as United's equals.
''It is a great semi-final,'' he said. ''You could see what it meant to the fans at the end. We are very close with all the top squads but we need to improve more and maybe next year we will be at the same level.
''But it is important that we played a good game at Old Trafford last time and we have a chance to win, like them.''
Mancini made no attempt to prevent his side learning the draw before they kicked-off against Reading. In his mind, the whole issue was irrelevant until City had overcome an obdurate Reading outfit, who proved difficult to break down.
''We knew the draw before the game but we had to win before we could think about the semi-final,'' said Mancini. ''We are not fresh or 100% at this moment but we deserved to win. We had 17 attempts on goal.''
City team-mates Micah Richards and Vincent Kompany said they were relishing the prospect of facing rivals United.
Richards said: ''We're looking forward to it, it's going to be a great game.''
Belgian defender Kompany told ESPN: ''I will let you guess how much the next opponent will mean to us. There's no easy way to the final. We're looking forward to it.''
Kompany also paid tribute to Championship side Reading.
''Credit to them. They gave us a hard time. We had a lot of chances so I think it's fair,'' he added.
However, Reading boss Brian McDermott was still cursing at the final whistle.
''I thought we were going to get at least a draw,'' he said. ''We pushed Manchester City a long way and if Tevez had beaten five and Silva had produced a piece of magic it would have been a bit different but to lose at a set play was galling.
''You could see what it meant to them the way they celebrated at the end. Unfortunately, you are not going to get the semi-final everyone wanted; Manchester United versus Reading.''
Reading chairman Sir John Madejski backed his players to build on their cup run and make the Championship play-offs.
''I think a draw would have been a much fairer result,'' he told ESPN. ''It puts them (the Reading players) very well placed in the Championship to move on to the Premier League. Reading should be proud, they should hold their heads up high and be proud of what they've achieved this afternoon.''