Ferguson made three changes to his starting line-up, with Rio Ferdinand, Darren Fletcher and Ashley Young in for Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley and Chicharito respectively.
The visitors’ attack looked sharp in their approach play during the opening exchanges, only for the final pass to go awry. There was no such profligacy from the hosts after eight minutes, however. For the tenth time in fifteen Barclays Premier League games, the Reds fell behind when Jonny Evans’ clearing header fell perfectly for Robson-Kanu to take a touch and rifle a finish high into Anders’ Lindegaard’s net.
With United renowned for overturning deficits and Reading known for surrendering leads, both sides’ form hinted at what would subsequently unfold, yet few could have imagined how quickly the game would be turned on its head.
The Royals led for less than five minutes before United drew level in stunning fashion. A sweeping move involving van Persie and Anderson culminated in Young feeding a pass through for Anderson, and the Brazilian unleashed a stinging effort which flew off the inside of Federici’s post and into the roof of the net.
The visitors’ tails were up, and only a heroic sliding block from Shaun Cummings stopped Young from crossing for Rooney to tap home. From the resultant corner, however, Evans was needlessly barged to the ground by Jay Tabb and referee Mark Halsey had no choice but to award a penalty.
Rooney duly sent Federici the wrong way to put United ahead for the first time, but just when it appeared a familiar script was being penned, the game was once again subverted as Reading struck twice in four