Reading’s recent dismissal of Brian McDermott was a controversial step, but a managerless team sometimes conjures inspiration and despite being in 19th place in the league and seven points adrift of safety, their 4-3 league defeat and 2-1 FA Cup loss against the Reds earlier this season at least showed determination to make life difficult.
After 15 minutes there had been a dearth of excitement but United soon created a scoring chance when Ferdinand’s stunning 50-yard diagonal pass found Young and the winger ignored the darting runs of van Persie and Rooney to fizz a shot across goal.
After that, United improved somewhat. On 18 minutes Welbeck sliced a volleyed effort over the bar and two minutes later Reading goalkeeper Stuart Taylor had to race out of his area to prevent Young reaching Giggs’ excellent through-ball. A goal seemed inevitable and after 21 minutes United got it as Ferdinand’s bounding run out of defence created space for Rooney, who lashed a shot into the ground and courtesy of a slight deflection off Alex Pearce it beat Taylor. “We shall not be moved,” chorused the Old Trafford crowd.
Later in the half, Rooney and van Persie had long-range efforts that Taylor nervously saved, while Reading’s sole testing shot came when Hal Robson-Kanu curled a 20-yard strike round David De Gea’s right post. Ferdinand seemed to epitomise United’s first-half performance; cruising around the pitch at a canter, rarely troubled whilst calmly doing everything he needed to do.
Reading started the second half with a greater sense of adventure and United had to be alert in defending a flurry of corners in the opening ten minutes of the half. The Reds, however, regained control and