Last Updated: 16/03/13 7:24pm
Manchester United move 15 points clear at the top of the Premier League with a 1-0 win which keeps managerless Reading in deep relegation trouble. A deflected, first-half Rooney goal secured the victory as Sir Alex Ferguson's side capitalised on Manchester City's loss at Everton earlier on Saturday. Defeat means there is no quick-fix for Reading following the controversial sacking of Brian McDermott in the week and they remain seven points from safety. Stay with us for all the post-match reaction.
Chance for Van Persie from Kagawa's cross on the right. But Van Persie's overhead kick is high over the crossbar from six yards.
This really has been a game to quickly forget. It has been played at the tempo of a pre-season friendly. United are holding the ball in the Reading corner.
Ferdinand hits the ball long to Welbeck, who takes a whack from Mariappa when challenging for the ball in the air.
United are now simply trying to keep the ball and from a throw-in in the Reading half play the ball back to Ferdinand.
The rumours is there will be five minutes of stoppage time after all the injuries and substitutions.
Before the corner, Reading send on the tall and powerful Morrison in place of Kelly. Morrison gets his head to the ball but nods wide of the target.
There are now a lot of empty seats at Old Trafford. This game has had the feeling of being over for a long time. But Reading win a corner on the left.
Rooney smashes an effort just over the crossbar after being found on the edge of the box by a first-time lay-off from Welbeck, who had been fed in by Giggs. It is a nice move and Rooney's shot only just goes over the crossbar.
Giggs again causes problems from the next corner with a good bit of trickery. Reading just about survive from the resulting corner.
Giggs plays a short corner and is then able to drift into the box. His deflected cross-shot has to be palmed behind for another corner by Taylor.
Blackman has put himself about since coming on but Reading have lacked quality in important areas today.
Blackman then fouls Ferdinand and gives United a free-kick just on the edge of their own box. De Gea hits the set-piece long and up field.
Reading win another throw-in in quick succession down the left before Blackman then crosses. But Rooney, back in his own penalty area, heads clear.
Blackman puts Vidic under pressure inside his own penalty area and the centre-back has to hack the ball out for a throw-in on the left.
Giggs advances down the left but his cross is cut out at the near post. United remain on the attack but Rooney fires over the crossbar.
United look as if they are happy to see out the remaining 13 minutes plus stoppage time with this one-goal advantage.
In what has been a rare United attack in the past 15 minutes, Smalling gets to the byline on the right but horribly smashes his cross over all of his team-mates.
Young is heading straight for the United dressing room. It remains to be seen whether his injury rules him out of England duty ahead of the international break.
United are preparing to send on Carrick. That will be designed to keep the ball in the closing stages.
Replays showed McCleary trod on Young's ankle. But, after treatment, both players are back on their feet.
Le Fondre immediately brings a bit of spark to Reading when carrying the ball forward. But McCleary then over-runs the ball and is tackled by Young. Both players are hurt in the process.
Double change for Reading. Hunt and Robson-Kanu go off to be replaced by United fan Le Fondre and Blackman.
Rooney is back on and is okay. The game restarts with Anderson and Hunt contesting a drop ball in old-fashioned style.
Rooney heads clear the free-kick and takes an elbow from Pearce in the process. Referee Mason stops the game due to the head injury.
Reading are getting ready to send on Le Fondre. But they alos have a free-kick wide on the left and a chance to cross into the box.
Anderson finds Van Persie inside the box but, as a a further indication of his lack of confidence, he hesitates and Mariappa can block for a corner, which Reading then defend well.
United are beginning to win a lot of free-kicks. Reading are becoming too desperate to regain the ball and are committing fouls.
Van Persie shoots from the free-kick and Taylor has to dive to his left to palm away the fiercely hit shot, which went through a gap in the Reading wall.
United are attempting to raise the tempo. Rooney wins a free-kick in a central area and around 30 yards from goal. Rooney and Van Persie are over the ball.
Hunt has had to temporarily leave the field in order to change his blood-stained shirt and receive treatment for what looks like a cut lip.
Another corner to United after a Welbeck shot deflects wide. Young meets the ball close to the penalty spot but volleys over the crossbar.
Reading defend the resulting corner despite having Karacan on the sidelines. Van Persie then follows up with a wild shot which flies over the crossbar from 25 yards.
Karacan's challenge has come at a cost. He is down and receiving treatment to his right knee. Buttner was also down but is now back on his feet. Karacan eventually hobbles to the sidelines.
Superb, last-ditch challenge from Karacan on Buttner on the edge of the Reading six-yard box just as the United left-back was about to shoot.
Perhaps United's slightly lacklustre performance is a result of the fatigue Ferguson claims his players have been suffering from.
Kelly is booked after leaving Young in a heap with a sliding challenge. Young has just knocked the ball away. Young's resulting free-kick is headed clear by Pearce.
Giggs plays a long ball down the left but it is too strong for the advancing Buttner, who receives and ear-bashing from his team-mate for not coming short.
If this result stays like this, remember United will be going 15 points clear at the top of the table while Reading will remain seven points from safety in the relegation zone.
Reading are pushing United back in this half but Van Persie then carries the ball clear before being tripped from behind by McAnuff.
McAnuff takes this corner with his right foot to ensure it is another inswinger. But he puts too much on the ball and it goes over the far side of the six-yard box.
Shorey smacks the free-kick to the far side of the penalty area. But Reading keep the ball alive and win a corner on the left. They have made an okay start to the second half.
Robson-Kanu wins a free-kick wide on the right after being tripped over by a slightly over-eager Buttner.
Replays show Vidic used two hands to push Mariappa at that corner. It could easily have been a penalty but referee Mason allowed play to continue.
Shorey takes an inswinging corner with his left foot. Vidic takes a risk in knocking Mariappa to the floor with a push when competing for the header. Mariappa then has a follow-up effort which deflects for another corner.
Reading go long from kick-off and work the ball into the United left-back position. The visitors eventually win a corner. It is the first corner of the match.
Pretty uninspiring stuff but United are in front through Rooney's deflected goal. Reading looks short on confidence and have offered next to nothing as an attacking threat. Stay with us for the second half.
Throw-in to Reading on the right and close to the United corner flag. From the throw, Vidic tackles to gain the ball back for United.
Reading are dropping deeper and deeper. Hunt is pretty much the only visiting player in the United half.
Buttner plays a very poor ball across his own goal. McAnuff collects and carries the ball to the edge of the box. But, under pressure from Giggs and Young, McAnuff scuffs his shot wide. He wants a free-kick but referee Mason is not interested. The rain is now very heavy at Old Trafford.
Giggs leads a United attack down the left before playing the ball to Welbeck, who attempted to return the pass to his team-mate with a backheel but the move breaks down. Giggs had run in a different direction.
Reading have offered very little in terms of a response to going behind. There continues to be quite a flat atmosphere at Old Trafford.
Van Persie has not scored since early February and it is easy to see that his confidence his low. He mutters to himself after failing to control a ball.
Karacan darts into the United box down the inside right channel and manages to dink a cross. But Hunt is the only man attacking the cross and it is over his head.
It looks like Welbeck has pushed into a centre forward position and Rooney is now dropping a little deeper.
Hunt and Giggs have a good tussle on one of the flanks before the ball goes out for a Reading throw. The two players slap hands afterwards.
Anderson runs with the ball to the edge of the Reading box before playing it out wide to the left to Welbeck, who has swapped flanks with Young. Welbeck's low cross is just taken off the toes of Van Persie in the six-yard area.
Again, I spoke too soon. McCleary carries the ball in field from the left and plays a pass to Robson-Kanu. Robson-Kanu takes on a 25-yard shot with his left foot which curls just wide of the far post.
It has been all United since Rooney's deflected effort opened the scoring. There is a huge gulf in class between these two sides and it looks as if both sets of players know it.
Giggs gets down the left with a good change of pace and digs out a cross from the byline. But it is into the hands of Taylor.
Reading are having to do a lot of chasing the ball and will become very tired if the game continues in this manner.
Rooney tests Taylor with a 25-yard effort. But it is low and a simple catch for the Reading goalkeeper.
Reading have struggled to get out of their own half since going behind. They are going nowhere with their passing.
United are hunting the ball very well. When the Reading defenders have the ball, Rooney and Van Persie push high while Young and Welbeck squeeze in depending on which flank.
United can now keep the ball as much as they like and try and drag Reading out of position. The visitors had previously been very organised but now they have to chase the game.
Excellent play from Ferdinand, as he jinks forward with the ball and into the Reading half. The centre-back then plays the ball to Rooney, whose shot from the edge of the penalty area takes a huge deflection off Pearce to loop over Taylor.
Good goalkeeping by Taylor as he charges out of his penalty area to head clear a through ball which Young was about to collect in behind the Reading defence.
It has been a very strange opening 19 minutes. The game is being played at a slow tempo and Old Trafford is very quiet.
United keep the pressure on and Welbeck follows up the defended cross with a first-time right-footed volley which he skies over the crossbar.
Rooney sends a dangerous cross in from the left. It is to the edge of the six-yard box but Reading just about defend the delivery.
Free-kick to United inside their own penalty area when Robson-Kanu and Buttner tangle legs. Buttner wanted to play on as he had the chance to break up the left.
I spoke too soon. Ferdinand plays a great pass out to the left to Young, who cuts into the box but does not quite put enough curl on the ball to get it inside the far post and his shot flies wide.
Rooney's delivery from the free-kick is not great and it is headed clear by the first line of Reading defenders.
United appear to be targeting their attacks down the left. Leigertwood fouls Rooney to give United a free-kick out wide on that flank.
Pearce carries the ball into the United half and Reading then build an attack. But McAnuff badly misplaces a pass to give United a throw-in.
Smalling plays a ball out to the left to invite Young to chase the pass. But there is too much power on the ball and Young cannot catch it before it goes out for a goal-kick.
United really do not seem to be in any rush to get the ball forward. Considering their attacking line-up, it was expected they would go for the jugular from kick-off.
Van Persie is adjudged to have fouled Hunt just inside the Reading half when using his body to move the Irishman when competing for an aerial ball.
McCleary produces a stepover down the left before crossing but his delivery is low and into the shins of Vidic.
It has been quite a slow pace to the opening few minutes of this game. But Reading are at least trying to attack.
Ferdinand hits a long ball down the right channel in search of Van Persie but it is over the head of the Dutchman.
United are pressing Reading with a very high line of defence. Van Persie and Rooney are chasing down the visiting defenders.
Reading work the ball up the left hand side and Shorey's cross almost causes problems when Smalling fails to control. But no Reading player can capitalise.
United keep the ball for the opening 60 seconds before Buttner puts too much pace on a pass to give Reading a throw-in close to the left corner flag.
Here come the teams. United and Reading emerge from the tunnel and kick-off is only a few minutes away.
Rowan Arnold says: "Got a feeling United are going to walk all over Reading today, Strong offensive team selection with Rooney looking to get his name back on the scoresheet and Van Persie well overdue a goal. I don't think we'll see much spirit in Reading today and with three of the biggest men at the back I expect another clean sheet for the red devils. 4-0."
Rooney has been involved in a Premier League goal (scoring or assisting) every 75 minutes this season, his best-ever rate in a league campaign. Van Persie's conversion rate in his past nine games is 5% (all comps), compared to 27% in the 28 games before that.
United have gone two games without a win following their UEFA Champions League defeat by Real Madrid and FA Cup draw with Chelsea and Ferguson has said his side have been suffering from fatigue. But they still only need 16 more points to win the title.
It seems certain there will be goals today. The two competitive games between Man United and Reading so far this season have produced a total of 10. Reading's only competitive win against Manchester United came back in 1927.
Morgan Roberts says: "I'm going for 5-0 United, with RVP and Rooney continuing their goalscoring form against Reading with a double each. Can't see anything other than a convincing win, however cruel on a Reading side who shouldn't really be managerless in my view. Come on United."
Reading caretaker manager Eamonn Dolan is of course in charge of the visitors today following the sacking of Brian McDermott earlier in the week? Can the Royals produce what would be a remarkable victory as they bid to escape relegation? Meanwhile, victory for Sir Alex Ferguson's United, who have a very attacking line-up today, would move them 15 points clear at the top of the Premier League.
Adam Humphrey says: "I can see United wanting to bounce back after two games without a win. Little bit worried about Giggs in CM as it isn't his most effective position but I'm hoping for two or more goals from Van Persie in a big United win!"
Matty Read says: "I think United need to go into today's game showing why they are at the top and try to punish a possible 'hurt' Reading side. After City have slipped up today I think this game could be as important as any - 15 points could just be too much!"
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De Gea; Smalling, Ferdinand Vidic, Buttner, Welbeck, Giggs, Anderson, Young, Rooney, Van Persie. Subs: Lindegaard, Evans, Valencia, Hernandez, Carrick, Powell, Kagawa.
Taylor, Shorey, Kelly, Pearce, Mariappa, Karacan, Leigertwood, McAnuff, McCleary, Robson-Kanu, Hunt. Subs: McCarthy, Gunter, Harte, Morrison, Akpan, Blackman, Le Fondre.