LONDON • Wayne Rooney became Manchester United's joint-record scorer with Bobby Charlton on 249 strikes 4,484 days after a first for the English football club, as the holders began their FA Cup defence with a convincing 4-0 victory over Reading in the third round yesterday at Old Trafford.
The second-tier side, managed by former United favourite Jaap Stam, arrived and left having had scant sniff of doubling their only victory - in January 1927 - over these opponents in the competition.
The day belonged to Rooney, though. Just seven minutes were played when he made history. The captain was making a first appearance following three games out due to a muscle injury.
The strike that took the 31-year-old equal with Charlton also impressed as it displayed Rooney's quicksilver brain.
Anthony Martial made a run along the left, pulled the ball back to Juan Mata, and, from a mishit effort, Rooney improvised to use a right knee to beat Ali Al-Habsi.
Cue a celebration that consisted of a few steps, then a triumphant punch of the air.
Manchester United 4
In their posh seats, members of United's board stood to applaud and Charlton wore a broad smile.
All around the ground the old cry of "Rooney, Rooney" went up to hail a run that began with a Champions League hat-trick against Fenerbahce here on Sept 28, 2004.
"It is a proud moment. To do it at such a massive club, I am hugely honoured and it is really proud moment for me," said Rooney.
United manager Jose Mourinho said: "A more special day will arrive. It was great but I want one more goal! He is an amazing guy in the group and we all want him to do that. To have Wayne as the top scorer in a club like this is magnificent for him."
Rooney also ran the show for United as in days of yore.
ONE DOWN, ONE MORE TO GO
A more special day will arrive. It was great but I want one more goal! He is an amazing guy in the group and we all want him to do that. To have Wayne as the top scorer in a club like this is magnificent for him.
JOSE MOURINHO, United manager, who is awaiting captain Wayne Rooney's next strike which will be his 250th for the club.
In their last outing in this stadium on New Year's Eve, Martial had been the outstanding performer. Then, he registered a late equaliser in a 2-1 win over Middlesbrough.
Yesterday, 15 minutes were gone when he struck and he could thank Rooney. The Frenchman executed a slick one-two with Rooney, ran down an inside left channel, and gave Al-Habsi zero chance with a right-booted finish.
This opening half became a tale of Rooney, Martial and Rashford terrorising Stam's side, who had no answer for the pace of their opponents.
Mourinho's XI had nine changes from Monday's victorious outfit at West Ham.
And on 19 minutes, the manager witnessed precisely what he did not want: defender Marcos Rojo walking off injured.
As Mourinho is without another of his centre-backs, Eric Bailly, for up to six weeks owing to Africa Cup of Nations duty, his concern was illustrated by the quick word he exchanged with Rojo, presumably to ascertain how serious the issue was.
"I don't know (about the extent of the injury). I have to wait a bit," he said later. "A muscle is a muscle and we are a little bit afraid of it. Without Eric Bailly, it is more important."
Mourinho, though, had no worries about the outcome of the match as between the 75th and 79th minutes, United's lead doubled. Each finish was from Marcus Rashford, who broke a personal drought stretching back to Sept 24.
"I am happy because it was a professional job from minute one," said the Portuguese.
Dutchman Stam said: "You have got to start aggressively against a team like this, otherwise they will make you pay."
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE