For match photos, scroll to photostream above left. For match stats click on the statistics tab. Manager reaction below.
Wayne Rooney answered the goalscoring rallying cry of his manager as Manchester United twice came from behind to beat Reading and move three points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League.
Sir Alex Ferguson said he wanted to see his striker find the back of the net more often and Rooney responded with two strikes in a thrilling match at the Madejski Stadium, where all seven goals came in a 34-minute spell in the first half. Hal Robson-Kanu gave Reading an early lead before United hit back with Anderson levelling and Rooney putting them ahead from the spot. Reading stunned the visitors with two quick-fire goals to regain the lead as Adam Le Fondre and Sean Morrison scored with close-range headers. But another effort from Rooney and a neat finish from Robin van Persie meant United took the spoils.
The home side went ahead in the seventh minute after Jonny Evans could only head Jobi McAnuff's cross into the path of Robson-Kanu, who volleyed past Anders Lindegaard. United found themselves in the familiar position of chasing a game and soon showed their ruthlessness when coming from behind.
Anderson picked out Ashley Young wide on the left and the Brazil midfielder continued his run before Young picked him out and he lashed United level. Just nine minutes after falling behind the visitors were ahead after Jay Tabb bundled into the back of Evans.
Reading were level just three minutes later as United fan Le Fondre wriggled free of Evans in the area to head home a Nicky Shorey corner. Brian McDermott's side have shown great resolve this season and retook the lead at another corner. Moments after Rio Ferdinand had headed away a cross ta the back post, Morrison beat Evans to a corner and powered a close-range header past Lindegaard.
With title rivals Manchester City being held at home to Everton earlier in the day, United knew a win was vital ahead of the Manchester derby next weekend and they were soon back on top. A sublime piece of skill from Young freed Patrice Evra down the left and his low cross was tucked away by Rooney to make it 3-3 with only half an hour gone.
Ferguson decided to make a tactical substitution and replaced Rafael Da Silva, who had been cautioned moments earlier, with Chris Smalling. Just four minutes after Rooney's effort United took the lead yet again. Michael Carrick's through-ball was deflected into the path of Van Persie by a clever Rooney touch and the Dutchman slotted past Federici with his right foot.
United almost got a fifth goal before half-time as Van Persie pounced on a smart Federici save and directed an effort goalwards. Adrian Mariappa was in the right place to clear off the line.
The second half started much calmer but it was the home side who were pressing forward. Lindegaard fumbled a catch from a Shorey corner before Halsey waved away Reading appeals for a penalty after Evra won the ball in a challenge with Mariappa. Van Persie wasted a good chance to put United two clear when he shot wide after being picked out by Phil Jones, although the ball into the striker was slightly behind him.
The 29-year-old missed a better opportunity moments later as he robbed the ball off a dallying Federici but could not hit the empty net from a tight angle.
McDermott introduced Pavel Pogrebnyak for the tiring Jason Roberts as his side went in search of an equaliser. Smalling found himself in space on the right flank with just three minutes left on the clock but he could only put his effort into the United fans behind Federici's goal. Reading pushed on in stoppage time and a Morrison header was tipped over by Lindegaard with the same player heading wide from the resulting corner as United just held on.
Reading manager Brian McDermott: "Some of the football was terrific - I thought we were going to go on and win the game but they have got massive quality in the team and we know that.
"I look at that today and I remember where we were three years ago, we were just coming up to a game with Plymouth and we got beat 4-1 and it could have been about 10. We were staring Division 1 [League One] in the face and where we are now, three years later, is a phenomenal achievement for the club - I'm stood in line next to Sir Alex Ferguson playing Manchester United and we are 3-2 up."
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson: "I don't know what to make of it, the first half the defending was the worst this season, absolutely no doubt about that. Nobody competed for the crosses, in fairness Reading have a great delivery of the ball - the boy [Nicky] Shorey whips them in, fantastic crosses but we should be doing better than that. It was terrible.
"We have the players that can rescue us and today again Waz [Wayne Rooney] in the first half was fantastic, he and Robin [van Persie] and Ashley Young were a real threat to them, they couldn't control them. They were terrific in the first half, Ashley was right back to form and gave them a real hard time of it - Wayne made a great pass for Robin's goal, terrific pass.
"There are a lot of plus points in the sense that they never gave in and kept going and in the second half showed a great determination to get over the line and that is what it was about today, getting over the line.
"In the second half we had two great opportunities for Robin to finish the game off and you are left on the knife-edge because they put the ball into the box and make it difficult for you.
"It [Manchester City next week] is a massive game, if we defend like that we will be in trouble, there is no doubt about that. The important thing for us is to take lessons from the mistakes we are making and find a solution, because we are going to need it.
"Rafael had been booked, I don't think there was any danger in him being sent off because it was an innocuous challenge but we really needed to get height into the team. [Anderson's] is a hamstring unfortunately and he will be out for a few weeks, he had been playing well the lad, scored a great goal and it is disappointing."
|08 Dec 2012||v Southampton (A)|
|11 Dec 2012||v Sunderland (A)|
|17 Dec 2012||v Arsenal (H)|
|22 Dec 2012||v Man City (A)|
|26 Dec 2012||v Swansea (H)|
|29 Dec 2012||v West Ham (H)|