Manchester United 1 Reading 0 match report: United happy winning ugly says Chris Smalling after 15 point gap opens up

United lead City by a huge margin with only a few games to go

Once club football resumes after a fortnight's break and the domestic season enters the final few furlongs, Reading will just be desperate to win any old way and even Manchester United will sacrifice style for the last few points they need to secure a 20th league championship. That was the message that came out of the teams' third meeting of the season, which, like the previous two, ended in a single-goal victory for United.

The upshot is that it seems increasingly unlikely that there will be a league match between them next season, Reading having slipped to seven points from safety with this fourth successive defeat.

"Realistically, we expected that," said the caretaker manager Eamonn Dolan, who spent yesterday in his more accustomed role as academy manager, watching the Royals' under-age teams. Dolan, once an Irish youth international at West Ham and later in charge at Exeter City, comes across as a down-to-earth character; he sailed close to the disciplinary wind in what is likely to be his only game in charge of a Premier League club with his comments about Lee Mason, the replacement referee, who refused Reading a penalty for Nemanja Vidic's push on Adrian Mariappa.

"Vidic looks at him and pushes him. It's a clear penalty but it's Man United away so you don't get it," Dolan said, adding a caustic line about the referee thinking he must have been on work experience. Which in a sense he was, of course. Dolan has also said he does not want the job on a permanent basis, out of loyalty to his friend Brian McDermott, and Reading's ambitious owner Anton Zingarevich will be looking for bigger fish to interview this week.

The former England manager Glenn Hoddle would be keen; Gus Poyet at Brighton will wonder whether he would only end up back in the Championship next season; and Phil Parkinson, an old local hero, must convince the board he could succeed where he failed at Charlton Athletic.

It is 27 long years since Manchester United had to worry about such matters. Manchester City and Everton had already played their part in effectively sending the trophy back to Old Trafford for the 13th time under Sir Alex Ferguson before Wayne Rooney's deflected goal decided one of the stadium's more forgettable games.

As Chris Smalling, brought into the side at right-back as one of eight changes, put it: "It wasn't a great game, it got pretty ugly. But I think we are just happy with the three points because that is what we needed and we got a clean sheet as well. The manager said that at this time of year there can be a lot of 1-0 wins which can be ugly and you just need to get the points. So it is just a case of moving on from this. It wasn't great but we need to come back from internationals ready for some big games."

When they do, talk will soon shift to a possible Double, Chelsea in the FA Cup quarter-final replay and City as potential semi-final opponents both having their own reasons to deny United that.

Suggested Topics
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth gamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game