only his 11th league start, was the latest to have a go, this time from a set-piece. Ronaldo was hacked down, central to the goal, 25 yards out. Hargreaves arced in his shot, which Marcus Hahnemann brilliantly turned behind for a corner.
Reading weren’t without their moments. A weak van der Sar clearance was very nearly punished by Kitson, whose 40-yard shot had to be headed clear by Ferdinand, with Edwin stranded out of his goal.
However, as against Newcastle, United could find a way through before the interval and faced a second-half searching for a way to break their opponents down.
Two minutes after the restart, United almost got a similar response to the one against Newcastle. From a corner taken by Ryan Giggs, on for Ji-sung Park at half-time, Kitson almost headed into his own goal, but Hahnemann saved the Reading striker’s blushes.
After an hour Ronaldo had a chance to score his 23rd goal of the season. Rio burst into the box and squared the ball across goal, but it bobbled just as Ronaldo went to shoot and his shot was sent skyward. United’s frustrations continued.
Sir Alex’s side played some good, penetrative football early in the second half, but the final, crucial touch was proving elusive.
The longer the game went on the greater the feeling that Reading would deny United three points. But with little more than ten minutes left, that changed with a moment of sheer brilliance.
Tevez received the ball 35 yards from goal and picked out Rooney’s run into the box. The striker allowed the ball to drop over his left shoulder before expertly guiding the ball past Hahnemann. It was as much relief as joy for the Reds.