MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Wayne Rooney sent Manchester United 15 points clear at the top of the Premier League on Saturday by scoring in a 1-0 victory over Reading.

The win, while far from convincing, effectively ends the title race as it came after second-place Manchester City lost 2-0 at Everton.

Rooney claimed his 16th goal of the season in the 21st minute with a shot that flicked off Alex Pearce.

There are nine games remaining for United to wrap up a record-extending 20th English title.

Reading is only off the bottom of the standings because it has out-scored bottom-place Queens Park Rangers, but it is seven points from safety.

Following the dismissal of Brian McDermott earlier this week, Eamonn Dolan was in temporary charge of Reading.

The focus at Old Trafford, though, was on Rio Ferdinand days after he was called back into the England squad after an absence of nearly two years.

And the 34-year-old defender rolled back the years to turn in another impressive performance, which included claiming the assist for Rooney's winner but also showing an assuredness in possession.

He created United's first chance for a start with a crossfield pass to Ashley Young, which the winger controlled on the edge of the area before drilling a cross-shot just beyond Robin van Persie and the far post.

Ferdinand's next incursion was the crucial one.

Nipping in to intercept Garath McCleary's poor pass, Ferdinand advanced into the open space and nipped round a static Mikele Leigertwood before feeding Rooney just to his left.

The striker took aim and once his shot flicked off Pearce, goalkeeper Stuart Taylor had no chance of keeping it out.

Either side of Rooney's goal, Danny Welbeck went close on a couple of occasions and Robin van Persie tried his luck from 20 yards.

These are not the most productive of times for Van Persie, who has now scored only once in his last 10 games.

Only once did the visitors truly threaten before the break, when Hal Robson-Kanu let fly with a shot that goalkeeper David de Gea would not have reached if it had been on target.

They should have had a chance to equalize immediately after it though when Nemanja Vidic shoved Adrian Mariappa over inside the box. Reading appealed for what TV replays showed to be a clear foul, but referee Lee Mason was unmoved.

United failed to profit from their good fortune, with Welbeck and Young going close either side of a wild effort from Van Persie that flew out from a throw-in.

While Rooney fired over from long range, the hosts gave Reading enough hope to believe an equalizer was possible.

It did not come, however. While United is strolling toward the title, Reading appears to be returning straight back to the League Championship.