United remain top of the Premier League but the Reds made things difficult for themselves at the Madejski Stadium, leaving it late for Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo to seal a 2-0 victory.
Sir Alex Ferguson will not have been thankful for his side’s profligacy in front of goal for much of the match, especially against a side of Reading’s energy, enthusiasm and unwillingness to give in.
It took 77 minutes for Rooney to put United in front with an expert flicked finish, but it should have been far more straightforward. Ronaldo’s goal deep in injury time confirmed victory, although this was a win that tested the nerves.
The game was wide open in the first ten minutes, with United picking up where they left off in the second half against Newcastle creating chance after chance.
Inside the first minute Carlos Tevez and Rooney linked up to play in Ronaldo on the right, and the Portuguese winger’s low shot was only narrowly wide.
The Reds still had to be sharp at the opposite end when Leroy Lita got in behind Rio Ferdinand after ten minutes. Edwin van der Sar saved the Royals striker’s shot, and Nemanja Vidic's brilliantly-timed sliding tackle stopped Dave Kitson passing the rebound into an empty net.
Seconds later Ronaldo sent another shot fizzing past the post, before Rooney and Tevez again combined with the Argentina international firing narrowly wide.
Sir Alex’s men rarely face teams that play an open game; it’s far more common to come up against rigidly stubborn resistance than Reading’s have-a-go outlook. Some could say it was a brave decision by Steve Coppell, simply because it can play into United’s hands.
Owen Hargreaves, making only his 11th league start, was the latest to have a go,