Wayne Rooney moved level with Sir Bobby 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, fittingly, was chief among those marking Rooney’s historic moment seven minutes into a comfortable 4-0 victory, 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 sidenotes, 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.
“It’s a proud moment to do so at such a massive club like Manchester United,” the striker said.
“I’m hugely honoured to be able to play for this football club but to be up there in terms of goals with Sir Bobby, it’s a really proud moment for me and hopefully I’ll be out there on my own soon. But I’ll enjoy today because it’s a real honour.”
Anthony Martial, whose quick feet were key in the opener, 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 other opening period under Mourinho this term – and Marcus Rashford’s brace added gloss to the scoreline after the break, tucking home smartly and capitalising on Ali Al Habsi’s gaffe for his first goals since 24 September.
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.
Martial’s sumptuous skill was followed by the awareness to cut back 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 with which the player, signed from Everton in 2004, joined Charlton as the club’s all-time top scorer.
World Cup winner Charlton, Sir Alex Ferguson and England boss Gareth Southgate were among those who 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.
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.
Rashford’s late double sealed the win.