Royals Edged by United
Manchester United 1 (Rooney 20)
A brave performance from the Royals wasn't enough to take anything from table topping Manchester United on Saturday evening.
Eamonn Dolan's Reading worked their socks off - and were ultimately only undone by a slice of fortune in favour of the home side, as Wayne Rooney's first half effort took a huge deflection to drop past a helpless Stuart Taylor.
The visitors had a huge penalty claim turned down shortly after the break as Adrian Mariappa was bundled over in the box by Nemanja Vidic - but referee Lee Mason waved it away.
The men in blue and white certainly finished the clash with their heads held high, but were left with nothing but the rousing applause of their travelling fans as a reward for their struggle.
Manchester United: De Gea; Smalling, Buttner, Ferdinand, Vidic (c); Anderson (Kagawa 85), Giggs, Young (Carrick 74); Welbeck, Rooney, van Persie
Subs: Lindegaard, Evans, Valencia, Carrick, Kagawa, Hernandez, Powell
Reading: Taylor, Shorey, Kelly (Morrison 87), Pearce, Mariappa, Karacan, Leigertwood, McAnuff, McCleary, Robson-Kanu (Le Fondre 70), Hunt (Blackman 70)
Subs: McCarthy, Gunter, Harte, Morrison, Akpan, Blackman, Le Fondre
Booked: Hunt (foul 42), Kelly (foul 57)
The ls opening stages of the clash were uneventful, with the Royals more than holding their own - but United did come close 15 minutes in as Ashley Young cut inside before curling an effort narrowly wide of Stuart Taylor's post.
Danny Welbeck fired a half volley over the bar shortly afterwards, as the table toppers attempted to assert their authority on proceedings.
Taylor was again alert in the 20th minute, brilliantly dashing to the edge of his area to punch away Rooney's classy through ball, as Young waited to pounce.
But, the opening goal did come, all be it with a hint of fortune.
Rio Ferdinand marauded upfield, fed Rooney - and the England international's shot took a massive deflection of Pearce before dropping over a helpless Taylor and into the net.
Reading made efforts to respond. McCleary's fine turn and run allowed the Jamaican to send a searching ball to Robson-Kanu, whose long range effort was a whisker away from leveling the scores.
Growing in confidence - the Royals again set United pulses racing, as Karacan's clever flick released McCleary - and the winger's delicate chip only just flew over the head of an on-rushing Noel Hunt.
Dolan's side finished the half on the up.
The visitors picked up where they left off – and felt aggrieved that they didn’t have a penalty kick within two minutes of the restart.
Adrian Mariappa appeared to be pushed to the floor by Nemanja Vidic, and even as referee Lee Mason didn’t point to the spot – Reading’s centre half leapt up and saw his shot deflected over the bar.
United had cries for a spot kick of their own as Karacan slid in to deny Buttner’s attempted drive, but the referee elected that the Turkish midfielder had won the ball before clattering the full back to the floor.
Taylor then pulled off a smart save to palm away Van Persie’s stinging free-kick, before Mariappa showed superb composure to rob the Dutchman of the ball in a dangerous position.
As the last ten minutes loomed Reading were well in the game, even as Giggs’ stab at goal was deflected wide by Taylor – and Rooney slashed a drive over the bar.
Sean Morrison was thrown on and five minutes of added time were announced to spur on the visiting fans, whilst at the other end Van Persie’s audacious overhead kick flew into the stand.
Reading toiled, but it wasn’t enough. It was a hugely admirable performance from Eamonn Dolan’s side, but ultimately the Red Devils extended their sizeable lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League table.