Full-time - 90'
1 - 0
17:30 +00:00, March 16, 2013
Old Trafford, England
...but the final whistle goes before he can get too far. United were off their game, Reading well-organised and stubborn, but Rooney's deflected goal means the home side have a colossal 15-point advantage at the top of the table.
Morrison crosses and United have to scramble to get that one away. Giggs can lead the break...
Le Fondre for Reading, then Blackman. Giggs gets in and United can break with Rooney... but Kagawa loses possession.
Kagawa crosses from the right after some neat play and Van Persie tries a spectacular overhead. It's over the top, though.
Another throw to United, deep inside Reading territory. They're winding down the clock neatly enough - so far.
The United man is back on his feet. Giggs isn't - he's tripped by Leigertwood. Chance for the home side to cross from the right.
United keep possession before playing it long. Welbeck gets a thump in a challenge with Mariappa, and there'll be a few added seconds to the added minutes.
Van Persie crosses and Morrison heads clear with Rooney waiting. Five minutes of added time at Old Trafford.
Smalling wins a throw for United inside Reading territory as the clock ticks down towards added time.
A minute of normal time remaining, but there's likely to be a fair bit of time added on for those injuries and substitutions.
He gets his head to the ball, but United can just watch that one behind for a goal-kick.
Sean Morrison is on and Kelly off - Morrison is good in the air, and has a corner to attack here...
Kelly does well as Reading try to build a late attack. Carrick gets a block in to stop McAnuff from finding space.
Karacan completely miscontrols the ball, getting it tangled between his own feet, and it goes out of play.
Anderson is off and Shinji Kagawa on as United make another change.
Giggs on the right finds Welbeck inside the area. he lays the ball back and Rooney blasts a first-time effort narrowly over.
Another good cross soon comes in, and Pearce gets up well to head it away.
Giggs makes his way into space and his deflected cross, off Mariappa, is scramble around the post by Taylor.
Smalling gets down the right for United - he's made some good runs - and wins a corner. A second goal would, of course, put this beyond any doubt.
Karacan tries a through ball, but it goes all the way through to De Gea.
Then substitute Blackman crosses and Rooney is back there to get the header clear.
Reading aren't giving it up, though, and have the ball on the left. Shorey tries to clip the ball towards the penalty area.
A little over ten minutes remaining here. This, as it stands, may be United's most workaday three points of the season.
Van Persie goes down the left. The cross is blocked, but United move forward again - only for their passing to go awry. Again.
United on the ball, inside their own half. Again, it's all rather shapeless. Reading's clearance, though, goes straight back to the home side.
Anderson does well to cross from the right, but Taylor is there to pluck it out of the air.
Giggs is fouled on halfway and Smalling then tries to cross. He finds someone in row K of the Stretford End.
Ashley Young is off and Carrick on. Can the latter's measured passing help to get United moving?
Play is back under way. Ferdinand looks long, but Pearce is there to head clear for the visitors.
Young is on his feet but McCleary is not - yet - and grimaces as he receives some treatment from the Reading physio.
Young and McCleary clash painfully and both are on the floor. Nothing wrong with the challenge, though, just an awkward collision.
And with United still nowhere near fluent and only one goal in it, who's to say the Royals can't snatch an equaliser? Twenty minutes remaining here.
Changes: Noel Hunt off and Nick Blackman on and Hal Robson-Kanu off and Adam Le Fondre on. Attacking move by Reading, that.
Hunt gets on the end of it, but Buttner makes a good sliding challenge to deny him a crossing chance down the right.
He's soon back on his feet, though. It will be a drop ball to restart play.
It's cleared to Karacan, who shoots and sees it blocked. In the meantime, Rooney has taken a knock in the melee and is down...
Anderson concedes a dangerous free-kick with a foul on McAnuff. A very decent crossing position from the right, this, and Shorey is the man in command of the operation...
Young tries to get there for United, but Karacan - happily showing no ill-effects from that earlier injury - whacks it miles clear.
Welbeck drops deep to pick up the ball before Anderson finds Van Persie inside the area. But he's hesitant, and Reading block for a corner.
United come forward again, but Young's attempted through ball is pretty hopeless and Taylor gathers.
Van Persie hits it - it goes through the wall and Taylor dives to his left to make an excellent save.
But as the ball comes back, Reading concede a free-kick about 30 yards out and pretty central. Van Persie and Rooney look interested in this one.
Rooney, playing deeper, finds Smalling. He crosses rather aimlessly and Leigertwood can clear that without fuss.
That one is half cleared to Young, who flashes a shot over the top.
Welbeck has space as the referee plays on after a Kelly foul. He shoots, and a deflection takes it behind for a corner.
Smalling flicks on Rooney's corner - it falls to Van Persie, whose deflected shot is over the top for another corner. Karacan is back on.
The Reading physio is on, and Karacan looks to be in a fair bit of pain as he limps gingerly off the pitch.
Nice play by Young on the left and finds the overlapping Buttner. Karacan makes a fine challenge to deny him at the expense of a corner, and has hurt himself in the process.
And it's poor. No trouble for Reading to get that one away. A few signs of tetchiness from the Stretford End.
Giggs looks interested in this free-kick, on the left of the area, but in the end it will be Young.
Kelly catches Young late as United try to build - he's in the book.
McCleary can cross for Reading. He does, and Vidic does his job for United, clearing for a throw.
It's still a strange game. No real pattern, no real tempo.
Anderson comes forward and switches the ball to Young, but he used a hand to bring that under control and Reading get the free-kick.
Hunt forces an error from Giggs. Attacking throw to Reading.
United, by contrast, are even more lethargic than they were before the break.
The kick is a poor one, but the Berkshire side can be heartened by the way they have begun this second half.
Rooney is back there, and United eventually concede another Reading corner.
Reading can swing this free-kick into the area from the right, and Shorey is the man over it.
Robson-Kanu is in the thick of it in this half. He's fouled by Buttner and doesn't like that challenge, showing his frustration with it.
A flick-on is aimed towards Rooney, but Pearce is there for Reading and clears his lines.
McCleary finds Robson-Kanu, whose attempted cross is a wild slice out of play.
Anderson then tries to play the ball through the centre circle to Rooney, whose control lets him down.
United cope better with that one, but you could make a decent argument that they were fortunate not to concede a penalty there.
United don't deal with that well at all - a header more up than away. It looks as though Mariappa is pushed, but play goes on and Mariappa sees a shot deflected over for another corner.
Shorey will take this one, at the end where the travelling fans are gathered.
Robson-Kanu knows what he wants to do - he swings in a cross that is deflected behind for an early Reading corner.
Here we go, then - can Reading snatch an equaliser? Or will United find the rhythm that eluded them in the first half?
The players are on their way out of the tunnel, an Reading will get us under way.
And that minute elapses with no further action: United lead through Wayne Rooney's deflected goal, having not had an easy time of it against a well-organised and dogged, if limited, Reading side.
A minute of added time to be played at Old Trafford...
That Welbeck run didn't amount to very much, and United give away a free-kick as they try to win back possession.
Rooney comes forward and is well tackled. United come again, though, with Welbeck. Seconds remaining until the break.
Conditions at Old Trafford, where the rain is getting heavier, aren't making things any easier. But some of United's big stars, particularly Van Persie, are finding it a real struggle to get into the game.
He is - that's the first booking of a tepid game.
McAnuff, chased by Ashley Young, tries a shot from outside the area. It's wide. Hunt then catches Chris Smalling with a high challenge in midfield and will probably be booked...
Sir Alex Ferguson won't be too pleased with this, you wouldn't have thought - his aside may have the lead, but they are a long way off convincing. Credit to Reading for that, though: they have been impressively disciplined.
It goes awry and Giggs comes forward to find Welbeck, who flicks the ball to nobody in particular.
McCleary is fouled as he comes forward - free-kick to Reading, just inside the United half.
Leigertwood has shown some neat and tidy touches in this half, and weaves past a couple of people on halfway before possession runs away from him.
Karacan gets to the ball on the byline and dinks in a cross, but there aren't enough Royals in support for anything to come of that.
Not so, say the officials. That provokes a bit of muttering from the stands.
Reading, though, lose the ball and Anderson tries to make something happen, spreading the play from centre to left. Welbeck scuffs - was that a cross or a shot? - and it appears to go out for a corner.
Anderson dawdles and is robbed, and Hunt chases. Young whipper-snapper Ryan Giggs gets back to deny him space and concede a throw.
At the other end, Ferdinand cuts out a cross after good Reading play down the right had engineered the opportunity.
Welbeck surges into the Reading area as the home side try to step on the gas, but the final ball is cut out with van Persie and Rooney lurking.
De Gea wasn't going to get anywhere near that - a warning sign for a sluggish Manchester United.
Robson-Kanu finds a little bit of space on the edge of the area and curls a superb shot fractionally wide of the far post.
Reading are doing well - they are frustrating United and here they come now...
Ferdinand switches the play to Buttner, and the ball is fed to Welbeck. United look towards Rooney inside the area, but again the Royals clear.
Rooney finds Van Persie 30 yards out. He hits a shot which has plenty of swerve on it, but again Taylor is in the right place.
Forward come the home side again, though, and Giggs crosses deep from the left. Taylor catches confidently.
Ashley Young comes forward but is forced back by some good Reading harrying.
...he does, but doesn't catch the shot right at all, sending it bobbling through to the grateful Taylor.
Anderson and van Persie link and Rooney could have a touch of space here on the edge of the box...
United are playing well within themselves at the moment, and have cause to be grateful to the moment of good fortune - that deflection - that has them on the scoresheet.
Ferdinand strides forward again an finds Welbeck on halfway. He accelerates and tries a shot from 30 yards - it's scuffed and wide.
They have to go backwards to try and come forwards, though... and end up shuffling the ball all the way back to 'keeper Taylor.
Van Persie crosses, Reading clear and try to build on the halfway line.
Mariappa then gives possession away carelessly, but Van Persie can't make him pay - a poor pass sees the threat fizzle out.
A great run from Ferdinand made things happen, though - he picked off a poor Reading pass and just strode forward.
GOAL: He brings the ball down well and hits a shot that loops off Pearce and high into the net. United have the lead, but that's very unlucky for Reading.
Ferdinand comes forward, striding out of defence, and finds Rooney with some space outside the area.
Ashley Young chases a ball forward, and Stuart Taylor comes racing out to head it away from the attacker.
Forward come Reading and win a throw just inside the United half. It comes to nought, though. United are on the ball again, but they haven't exactly done much with it so far.
Then Van Persie has a go from a similar distance. It's scuffed and, in its different way, every bit as harmless.
A Rooney cross is cleared to the edge of the area, where Welbeck tries a shot. It's high, wide and no threat at all.
Vidic comes forward and plays the ball long towards the United strikers - Pearce heads clear for Reading.
The ball is played in towards Robson-Kanu, who nudges Buttner inside the penalty area and gives away the free-kick.
A quarter of an hour gone, and it has been an uneventful quarter of an hour. No spark from United, plenty of determination from Reading.
Van Perie was lurking, but that ball was always going beyond him.
The ball is fed to Young on the left - he tries to bend a shot from an angle inside the far post, but bends it wide.
Shorey clips the ball forward. It's beyond any of his colleagues, and United, with Giggs, take possession.
Rooney plays the ball in, but it's a nothing sort of ball and Reading again clear their lines easily enough.
Rooney tries to get something going for United. Leigertwood is marking him, and is adjudged to have fouled him.
Shorey comes forward again and tries to link with McAnuff, but the pass goes astray and flies out of play for a United throw-in.
Reading will be delighted with the way they have started - they haven't allowed United to get going.
The play is spread and Smalling wanders forward, but his effort to play the ball in, like Karacan's earlier, is beyond everyone.
Giggs and Buttner link, and the former finds Van Persie out on the left for United.
A little possession for Reading: McAnuff chases, but can't keep that ball down the left in play.
De Gea takes the goal-kick, but Van Persie is adjudged to have backed into his defender and Reading have a free-kick inside their own half.
Throw to Reading - Shorey takes. Karacan crosses, but that's beyond everyone.
All a little bit bitty so far: no real spells of possession for either side, and not much noise from the stands either.
Reading take the throw inside their own half - and the ball soon goes out for a United throw.
Welbeck is then adjudged to have been fouled in midfield - there wasn't that much in that - and United build with Van Persie before the ball goes astray.
That comes to nothing, though, and United come again. Welbeck tries to flick the ball down the right, but Reading read that and clear.
Hunt chases a long ball and does well, holding it up under pressure. Shorey gets up to cross, and Reading win an attacking throw.
Reading hammer the goal-kick upfield, but the ball is soon back in the care of David de Gea for United.
Then a cross comes in, looking for Welbeck, but it's far too long.
Young links with Van Persie on the right, but that move breaks down and Reading have a throw.
United get us under way and switch the ball to the right. Reading try to hassle them, but give away a free-kick.
Reading have only Noel Hunt up front. Their recent run has been morale-sapping after a previous upsurge in form, and defeat at home to Aston Villa last weekend - a game they had led - was a hammer blow.
And the handshake ritual is carried out before an evening that could all but tie up the title for the home side.
The players are emerging from the Old Trafford tunnel - moments remaining until kick-off.
United, meanwhile, can open up a 15-point lead at the top of the league with a win. And with nine games remaining, they are within touching distance of taking the title back.
Reading could end up bottom of the Premier League - they are currently off the foot of the table by slender goal difference.
Reading, meanwhile, have opted for a conservative 4-5-1 formation as Eamonn Dolan takes charge of the side for the first time following Brian McDermott's dismissal: Taylor, Shorey, Kelly, Pearce, Mariappa, Karacan, Leigertwood, McAnuff, McCleary, Robson-Kanu, Hunt.
Manchester United have named a strong attacking line-up as they attempt to take advantage of Manchester City's defeat against Everton earlier in the day. It looks like this: De Gea, Smalling, Buttner, Ferdinand, Vidic, Anderson, Giggs, Young, Welbeck, Rooney, van Persie
Join us for live commentary of Manchester United v Reading at 17:30 GMT.
David De Gea
Robin Van Persie
Adam Le Fondre
Adam Le Fondre