The Champions just edged past Reading in an evenly contested match at the Madejski Stadium.
Reading were much the better side in the first half and nearly went ahead after five minutes. Bobby Convey slotted a great ball in to Leroy Lita, but Van Der Sar was out quickly and closed down Lita before he could get a shot off. The ball then fell to Dave Kitson who was dragged to the ground by Michael Carrick, but referee Steve Bennet strangely gave a free kick against Reading when he could and perhaps should have awarded the Royals a penalty.
United had a few half chances, with Ronaldo shooting wide and Rooney being beaten to the ball by Hahnemann but Reading continued to look the better side and would have taken a historic lead had it not been for some good defending by Rio Ferdinand.
Van Der Sar cleared under pressure from Lita, but his kick fell straight to Dave Kitson. Kitson hit it first time from all of forty yards and with the ball destined for the net, a back tracking Rio Ferdinand managed to head to safety.
United looked a different side the second half and nearly went in front after just three minutes. Two excellent interventions from Bobby Convey led to a corner for the Reds. Half time substitute Ryan Giggs whipped the corner in, and Reading ‘keeper Marcus Hahnemann, under no pressure, punched the ball off the back of Dave Kitson, luckily for Hahnemann the excellent Kalifa Cisse was on hand to acrobatically clear off the line.
After that there were chances for both sides; Ronaldo blazed over the bar from ten yards and Kitson failed to lob Van Der Sar with Reading’s best chance of the half.
With the game seemingly heading for a draw, a moment of magic from Wayne Rooney gave United the lead. A clearance from Graeme Murty deflected off Leroy Lita, into the path of Carlos Tevez. Tevez picked out Rooney with a superbly flighted ball and Rooney’s sublime touch edged the ball passed Hahnemann.
Reading refused to believe the game was beyond them and were inches away from equalising through James Harper. A superb ball from Nicky Shorey found the run of Harper, whose early shot whistled agonisingly wide of the post.
With Reading desperately pushing forward in search of an equaliser, it was almost inevitable when Ronaldo found himself in acres of space to hit Reading on the break and kill the game off with a good finish.
The scoreline may have flattered United, with Reading looking the better side for long periods and despite the result, the Reading players certainly did themselves proud against arguably the best team in the country.
Marcus Hahnemann 6
The American ‘keeper made two key saves, but also had a couple of moments of madness. His distribution was again very poor and he almost gifted United a goal when he punched the ball into the back of Dave Kitson.
Graeme Murty 7
The Royals captain had a solid game and was unfortunate that he inadvertently gave the ball away for both of United’s goals.
Nicky Shorey 8
Put in a decent performance, will be hoping that he caught the eye of the on-looking England manager Fabio Capello.
Ivar Ingimarsson 8
Had a very solid game, made one crucial challenge to prevent Giggs from scoring after Hahnemann parried.
Kalifa Cisse 9
Was superb in his new role as centre back. Kept Tevez quiet for the majority of the game and could have done nothing to prevent the goals.
Stephen Hunt 7
Did a job in centre midfield. Although wasn’t much of a threat going forward, his energy and work rate was a great asset to the Royals.
James Harper 7
Had a tidy game alongside Stephen Hunt, made an excellent run for what was very nearly a Reading equaliser.
Bobby Convey 8
Worked very hard both going forward and helping out defensively. His ball nearly led to an early Reading lead, he also made some key interceptions.
Kevin Doyle 7
Had to play on thr right wing and wasn’t as effective as usual. Still worked very hard and made life difficult for Patrice Evra.
Leroy Lita 8
Was a real handful for Rio Ferdinand with some darting runs. Put in a good claim for a regular start.
Dave Kitson 8
Again showed his quality and could have got on the score sheet. Nearly scored from 40 yards with a great first time shot, has done his England chances no harm.
Steve Coppell 10.
Got the tactics spot on today.
Reading may have lost but they gave United a big run for their money and deserved to get something out of the game.
Reading’s attacking tactics even led to Wayne Rooney stating it to be the hardest game he’s played in this season!
After a defeat, I usually experience several emotions; anguish, dissapointment, depression etc. This game was different.
Every player in a Reading shirt should be proud of this performance. It seems strange to be saying this after losing, but it feels as though we won.
When United scored their second goal to kill of the game, a very rare and strange thing happened. Instead of the disheartened Reading fans pouring out of the ground to beat the traffic, every Royals fan in the ground stood up and gave the Reading players the standing ovation they deserved. Those last couple of minutes, were possibly the loudest the Reading fans had been all game. It was one of those special spine-tingling moments that comes along every once in a while and it reminded me why I love this game so much and why I am proud to be a Reading fan.