The Royals, who survived the dismissal of substitute Dave Kitson, were indebted to a superb performance from goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, who repelled everything the Reds threw at him.
Countless chances came and went begging as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side began their defence of the Premier League title with a teeth-grinding slog against the pragmatic visitors.
Frustration at the Reds' inability to break down Steve Coppell's side was heightened by the loss of Rooney, who was replaced at half-time by new signing Nani.
Sir Alex opted not to pitch any of his new signings straight into action against the Royals, with the Portuguese winger providing the only new face in the entire 16-man squad.
That meant no Anderson, Hargreaves or Tevez for a packed Old Trafford, as a very familiar United side kicked off the defence of their title against Steve Coppell’s side.
The ongoing absence of Gary Neville saw Wes Brown continue at right-back, while Mikael Silvestre’s inclusion on the opposite flank saw compatriot Patrice Evra pushed upfield in the winger’s role he occupied frequently in pre-season.
Reading deployed left-back Nicky Shorey to man-mark Cristiano Ronaldo, and the England international stuck to the Portuguese winger like a limpet for much of the match.