Live Commentary: Manchester United 1-0 Reading - as it happened

United's Wayne Rooney celebrates a goal against Reading on March 16, 2013
© PA Photos
Find out how Manchester United overcame Reading at Old Trafford with Sports Mole's live updates.

Manchester United went into this evening's clash against Reading knowing that a victory would extend their lead at the top of the Premier League table to 15 points.

While it was not their finest performance of the season by any stretch of the imagination, the home side got the job done thanks to a deflected goal from Wayne Rooney during the first half.

You can find out how the match unfolded with our minute-by-minute commentary below.


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4.32pmAfternoon all. Well then, what a big match this is for both teams. Manchester United can go 15 points clear at the top of the Premier League table with a victory, while Reading are in desperate need of a win to keep themselves in contention with their fellow strugglers. It should all make for a great match because both teams need to win.

4.34pmRight then, we are just beginning to receive some early team news from Old Trafford. Let's start with the visitors...

4.35pmREADING XI: Taylor; Kelly, Pearce, Mariappa, Shorey; Leigertwood, McAnuff, Karacan, Robson-Kanu, McCleary; Hunt

4.38pmInterim manager Eamonn Dolan has opted to play with one up front from the start today. Noel Hunt is the man that has been given the nod to lead the attack, while Hal Robson-Kanu and Garath McCleary will offer the support from wide areas. Elsewhere, Ian Harte has dropped out, with Nicky Shorey preferred at left-back.

4.39pmAnd here is what Sir Alex Ferguson has selected for the home team...

4.40pmMAN UNITED XI: De Gea; Smalling, Ferdinand, Vidic, Buttner; Welbeck, Giggs, Anderson, Young; Rooney, Van Persie

4.42pmFerguson insisted that his side were tired last weekend and as a result he has made a number of changes to his side today. In come the likes of Chris Smalling, Alexander Buttner, Danny Welbeck and Robin van Persie. It's certainly an attacking lineup from the Scottish manager. It seems as though he is hunting a convincing win!

4.45pmSenior players Patrice Evra and Michael Carrick have not even been named as substitutes by Ferguson. They have both played a lot of football this season so it looks as though they have been given the evening off. Here is who has made the benches though:

MAN UNITED: Evans, Valencia, Lindegaard, Chicharito, Carrick, Powell, Kagawa

READING: McCarthy, Gunter, Harte, Morrison, Akpan, Blackman, Le Fondre


4.48pmFrom an English point of view, it is good to see youngster Nick Powell included among the United subs. The 21-year-old, who joined from Crewe Alexandra during the summer, has impressed during his six appearances this season. Ferguson's thinking may be to give him 20 minutes or so if United can seal a victory early on. From a Reading point of view, they'll be hoping that the midfielder doesn't feature today.

4.53pmRight then, let's look ahead to this game shall we? When they met earlier in the season, it was one of the maddest matches of the campaign to date. United ran out 4-3 winners at the Madejski Stadium, with all the goals coming within the opening 45 minutes. It seemed as though every time one of the teams went forward, the ball ended up in the net. Will it be as entertaining today? My typing fingers hope not!

4.58pmThe two sides actually came up against each other last month in the FA Cup. There was only three goals on that occasion, but it was still a good watch. Nani and Javier Hernandez put United in command, but Jobi McAnuff set up a nervy finish with a late strike. It was a good performance from Reading, but they couldn't find an equaliser.

5.01pmOf course, Brian McDermott was in charge of Reading for both of those matches. He is however no longer the man at the helm. The owner Anton Zingarevich has decided that the Royals need a new boss to give them best chance of falling through the Premier League door. It seems a little harsh to be honest. With so few matches left to play, who could do a better job?

5.04pmHaving said that, whatever way you dress it up, it does look bleak for Reading. If they are defeated by a two-goal margin or more today they will sink to the bottom of the table with just eight matches left to go. It would be by no means impossible for them to survive, but they would really be up against it.

5.06pmObviously, if they were to win today, that changes everything. They would then be four points from safety and the momentum could prove crucial during the run in. One positive result down the bottom can change everything - we've seen that so many times in the past.

5.11pmUnfortunately for all you Reading fans out there, the history books do not suggest that you will in fact win today. Reading have never beaten Man United during the Premier League era and you have to go all the way back to 1927 for their last triumph over their hosts. I may be wrong, but I think Ryan Giggs may have played for United that day!

5.13pmAll jokes aside, what Giggs is doing at the moment is truly outstanding. He will be 40 this November and he is still shining in the Premier League and Champions League. He starts again today, having made himself a vital part of the United team since Christmas. It looks as though he will play in a central role alongside Anderson, who scored during the 4-3 match earlier in the season.

5.17pmOne player that is hoping to upset Giggs and United today is Reading defender Alex Pearce. Here is what he has had to say in the days leading up to this clash:

"We've got a couple of tough games coming up next and we need to do the best we can," Pearce told the Reading Chronicle. "If we go [to Old Trafford] and put on a proper team performance you never know what might happen."


5.21pmWhile some may see Pearce as being guilty of wishful thinking, he has a point. Reading played as a team during the FA Cup meeting against United in February and were almost rewarded. What's more, teams that lose their manager often produce the goods during their very next outing.


5.26pmRight then, the players are in the tunnel and are preparing to walk out onto the pitch. United skipper Nemanja Vidic is looking rather focused - bordering on scary! Not long now until we are off and running.

1 minGame on! United, attacking from left to right, get this encounter started.

3 minWe've had our first injury of the day, although it isn't suffered by a player. Referee Mark Clattenburg picked up a problem before the match even started and has been replaced by Lee Mason. Perhaps he just didn't want to feel Ferguson's wrath if he made a controversial decision!

6 minAs for the football, it's not been the best of starts. As expected United are seeing an awful lot of the ball, but they are yet to test Stuart Taylor in the Reading net. Whisper it, but the visitors have been comfortable during the opening exchanges.

9 minOne player that has barely touched the ball yet is Robin van Persie. The Dutchman has actually been on a barren spell of late, having scored just once in his last nine outings. That sort of run was almost unthinkable earlier in the season. No doubt he will be desperate to put that right today.

13 minAnderson is beginning to dictate the play from a United point of view. He is picking the ball up in the centre of the pitch and is trying to spark attacks by spraying the ball right or left. It's not worked yet, but Reading need to start picking up the Brazilian before he starts finding his targets.

15 minCHANCE! The first sight of goal for United and they go ever so close to breaking the deadlock. Rio Ferdinand picks out Ashley Young wide on the left with a raking pass. The winger cuts inside, before drilling the ball across goal. Van Persie is waiting, but there is too much pace on Young's effort and Reading escape.

19 minThe home side are now beginning to move through the gears. First Welbeck volleys well over the bar from distance, before a positive run by Giggs ends when he picks out Van Persie, whose drilled shot is easily cleared. Still Taylor is yet to be tested, but at least we are now seeing some attacking action.

21 minGOAL! Man United 1-0 Reading (Rooney)

23 minPoor old Taylor - the first thing of note that he has to do is pick the ball out of his net. There is nothing he can do as Wayne Rooney's shot from the edge of the area loops over his head and into the net via a deflection off Alex Pearce. A lot of the credit should go to Ferdinand though because the United defender broke into the Reading half and beat two players before setting up Rooney. It could be a long evening for the Royals now.

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25 minIt seems as though the United fans are not too keen on Ferdinand rejoining the England squad. Having been snubbed by Roy Hodgson for so long, the home faithful are telling the England boss that he can place his request for Ferdinand's services where the sun doesn't shine - or words to that effect!

29 minThere has been very little mention of Reading so far, but that is because they have posed virtually no threat. As you'd expect from a Reading team, they are passing the ball well enough, but there is no killer instinct in the final third at the moment.

31 minSAVE! You can tell that Van Persie is desperate to find net. He has just tried his luck from a full 35 yards, but Taylor had enough time to get himself behind the ball and he was able to hold at the first attempt. Even with Van Persie's ability, it was always wishful thinking from that distance.

34 minCHANCE! And there is a reminder for United that they cannot afford to be complacent. Hal Robson-Kanu bends a shot towards goal from the edge of the area, which beats a diving David de Gea. Thankfully for him and United, the ball whistles inches wide of the upright. That's much more positive from Reading though.

38 minAfter that one chance that they created, Reading have now retreated back into their shell. Although you can't really blame them, it's making for a really flat match at the moment. United are struggling to create chances and look to be getting frustrated. Still, the onus is on them to find a way through.

42 minBOOKING! It is in absolutely bucketing down with rain now. I know, in Manchester - who would have thought it? It's actually making it hard for the players to stay on their feet as Noel Hunt proved when bringing down Chris Smalling. The Reading striker is booked for his troubles.

45 minWe will have at least one minute of stoppage time here at the end of the first half at Old Trafford.

45+1 minHALF-TIME: Man United 1-0 Reading

6.18pmAfter that 45 minutes it is hard to believe that these teams have shared 10 goals between them in their two previous meetings this season. Goalscoring chances really have been hard to come by and it has almost had a pre-season friendly feel about it - it's been that flat.

6.22pmIt's United who for me have been the most disappointing of the two teams. After all, they are the league leaders and the home team who are playing a side that is near the foot of the table. You'd expect them to create chance after chance, but they haven't. What's more, they only lead by a deflected goal.

6.24pmThere will be those that say Reading have not helped the game by sitting back, but they could hardly go to Old Trafford and attack because it's almost certain that they would ship a number of goals up the other end. Having said that, there will come a point where they will need to loosen the shackles if they are to claim anything from this encounter.

6.30pmUnited could maybe do with a bit more creative spark in the final third. If this performance continues, perhaps it won't be long until Ferguson turns to someone like Shinji Kagawa. The Japanese international has shown in recent weeks that he possesses that something a bit different in and around the penalty area. The match is crying out for something like that.


45 minRight then - no changes have been made by either side as Reading start the second half.

48 minPENALTY APPEAL! Big shouts for a penalty by the Reading players as Adrian Mariappa goes down under a challenge from Vidic following a corner. Replays show that the United skipper is a lucky boy because he blatantly pushed his Reading counterpart. Okay he went down easy, but who doesn't? It was still a foul. It would have been a great start to the half for the Royals.

52 minReading have started much, much better during this second half. They are pressing United much higher up the field and are beginning to win the ball in key areas. What's more, they've had 74% of the possession during the opening eight minutes. It's such a contrast from the first half.

56 minBOOKING! Second yellow of the match for Reading and on this occasion they can have no complaints. Stephen Kelly is the man who has been booked for a needless lunge on Young. It's a silly thing to do because he is now walking on a tightrope.

59 minWe've got a slight stoppage in play as Jem Karacan is down after he made a superb tackle on Alexander Buttner inside the penalty area. He's now just picked himself up, but his left knee is causing him some pain.

62 minCHANCE! First real effort of the half for United arrives as Pearce clears a corner from Van Persie straight to Young on the edge of the area. The ball is a little high for the winger though and he can only volley it straight over the crossbar.

65 minSAVE! Van Persie almost breaks his recent duck with a curling free kick 25 yards from goal. The ball looks to be heading for the bottom right hand corner of the net, but Taylor gets two hands behind it to push well clear of danger. Signs that United are now beginning to apply some pressure.

69 minSUBSTITUTIONS: A double switch for Reading as Hunt and Robson-Kanu make way for Man United fan Adam Le Fondre and Nick Blackman. That is an attacking alteration from Eamonn Dolan.

73 minSUBSTITUTION: Young, who has picked up a knee injury, has been replaced by Michael Carrick. Earlier reports that he was not going to be on the bench have been proved incorrect. United have missed his wide range of passing greatly so far today.

78 minThe match has dropped back into pre-season mode. United are knocking the ball around in the midfield, without really looking like they are going anywhere fast. It's been a disappointing encounter, but if they hold out, the home side won't care too much.

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81 minThe injury-forced withdrawal of Young has seen Rooney move out to a role on the left wing. As a result, he is now being asked to do a lot more defensive work. It's a position that the striker never looks overly pleased to be in because he ends up sacrificing his own performance.

83 minSAVE! An own goal almost kills of Reading's chances. Giggs gets to the byline and attempts to cut the ball back for a teammate. Mariappa gets in the way, but only succeeds in sending the ball towards his own goal. However, Taylor reacts quickly to flick it away.

85 minSUBSTITUTION: When was the last time that Anderson completed 90 minutes for United? He always seems to be substituted! He's off again with five minutes to go and on comes Kagawa.

88 minSUBSTITUTION: Final swap for Reading as full-back Kelly is replaced by Sean Morrison. He is a defender, but will offer the Royals some height and power from corners and free kicks should they win any between now and the final whistle.

90 minReading have fine minutes of stoppage time to salvage something from this match. Not quite sure where that has come from, but can they make the most of it?

90+3 minThere are two minutes left and as far as Reading are concerned the ball is in the wrong area of the pitch. United are keeping it deep in the Reading half and are showing no signs of surrendering possession any time soon.

90+5 minFULL TIME: Man United 1-0 Reading

7.24pmIt was by no means a classic, but Ferguson is not likely to care one little bit. His side are 15 points clear with nine matches left to play. Just 13 points will seal the Premier League title - surely they won't blow it from here. As for Reading, they are deep in relegation trouble and time is beginning rapidly run out for them.

7.25pmThat's all we have time for from Old Trafford. Thanks for joining us this evening. Until next time, goodbye.

United's Wayne Rooney celebrates equalising against Southampton on January 30, 2013
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