Manchester United 4 Reading 0
Wayne Rooney moved level with SBobby Charlton as Manchester United's all-time top scorer, setting Jose Mourinho's men on the way to an eighth successive win in a one-sided FA Cup clash with Reading.
A long-standing air of inevitability made way for collective joy as Old Trafford stood in unison to celebrate the 249th United goal by one of the club’s greatest players.
Charlton, rather fittingly, was chief among those marking Rooney’s historic moment just seven minutes into a comfortable 4-0 victory against Reading, taking United’s winning run to eight matches in all competitions.
However, that form and the FA Cup holders’ progress from the third round were mere side notes, as their 31-year-old captain at last drew level with Charlton’s scoring record.
Rooney’s effort off his knee was unorthodox but historic, turning home Juan Mata’s cross on his 543rd appearance to the delight of team-mates and the Old Trafford faithful.
Anthony Martial, whose quick feet were key in the England captain's opener, quickly added a second via a slight deflection and Reading manager Jaap Stam was fortunate that his former club were not out of sight by half-time.
United managed 18 shots in the first half — more than any opening period under Mourinho this term — and Marcus Rashford’s brace added gloss to scoreline after the break, tucking home smartly and capitalising on Ali Al Habsi’s gaffe for his first goals since September 24.
Preventing United winning eight consecutive matches for the first time since 2009 was always going to be a tough ask for the Sky Bet Championship promotion hopefuls and so it proved, with Rashford directing wide after 32 seconds.
Rooney was involved moments later and got away a low shot saved by Al Habsi as the home side threatened an opener that would arrive via the United captain’s knee.
Martial’s sumptuous skill was followed by the awareness to cutback for Mata, whose cross was met by a telling, if not tidy, touch by Rooney.
The aesthetics were far less important than the impact as Old Trafford celebrated a fortuitous volley that saw the player signed from Everton in 2004 join Charlton as the club’s all-time top scorer.
World Cup winner Charlton, Sir Alex Ferguson and England boss Gareth Southgate were among those that witnessed a historic moment from which there was no let-up.
Martial, looking sharp on the flank, followed-up a tame effort with another that Al Habsi could do little about, opening his body up to tuck into the bottom right-hand corner via a slight deflection off Liam Moore’s heel.
Last-ditch defending from Michael Carrick prevented Liam Kelly from reducing the deficit from a cross before Moore failed to direct goalwards, but such frights from Reading were few and far between.
Martial skipped through to get away a shot that Al Habsi eventually got to grips with, before Rashford rounded the Omani goalkeeper only to turn into the side-netting.
The teenage striker tried the same route again only to this time blocked by the Royals keeper after Rooney failed with an attempt to clip home a record-breaking goal.
Carrick's long-range strike was denied by Al Habsi when play resumed for the second half, with Ashley Young perhaps fortunate only to be booked for a lunge on Jordan Obita.
United were in control and Rooney's desire to rack up a 250th goal was clear, just failing to direct home after Al Habsi spilled a Marouane Fellaini cross.
Joey van den Berg’s superb intervention prevented Rooney slipping in Rashford, but the 19-year-old would not be denied for long.
A fine through ball from Carrick was not cut out by Reading and Rashford went through to score his first goal since September 24.
The striker did not have to wait long for a second thanks Al Habsi, whose air kick under pressure allowed the striker to tap home.
Bastian Schweinsteiger, frozen out at the start of the season by Mourinho, came on for his second appearance of the season before that goal, which fellow substitute Tim Fosu-Mensah tried to add to.
Rooney was denied from an acute angle and Fellaini was thwarted from the follow-up as United ended the game as they started it.