The Reading defence crowd out Manchester United's Rooney
Manchester United had an uncomfortable start to the season as the champions were outsmarted tactically by Reading.
Worryingly, United also had to withdraw Wayne Rooney at the interval when the England striker fractured his foot after a challenge by Michael Duberry.
For the last 17 minutes Reading were a man short after substitute Dave Kitson was sent off seconds after coming on.
The closest United came to scoring was in the first half when Ryan Giggs hit the post with a finely executed volley.
Sir Alex Ferguson may have spent £50m over the summer on strengthening his squad, yet the United manager was reduced to deploying substitute John O'Shea as a makeshift centre-forward in the second half.
O'Shea did not disgrace himself as a striker but he was no replacement for Rooney.
In last season's opening fixture of the season, United were four goals up against Fulham after only 19 minutes.
Reading proved altogether less charitable opponents, with their manager Steve Coppell deploying man-markers to pay close attention to Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Coppell's strategic thinking worked a treat in the opening half and United only once seriously tested Marcus Hahnemann.
That was early on when the American had to come out quickly to snaffle the ball from Rooney after the England striker picked up Michael Carrick's pass.
Hahnemann had a busier time of it in the second half, saving well from O'Shea, Carrick, Ronaldo and Paul Scholes.
Those saves from Carrick, Ronaldo and Scholes came in the final minutes as United piled forward in search of the winner.
Even when Giggs hit the post with that first-half volley the Reading goalkeeper looked well enough positioned to stop the ball going into the net.
Rooney was injured when he managed to get in front of Duberry, falling awkwardly after going close with a first-time effort.
The United striker hobbled on until the interval but failed to re-emerge after half-time.
It was later confirmed the England striker had suffered a hairline fracture of his left foot, an injury that will rule him out of the Euro 2008 qualifiers with Israel and Russia in September.
If Reading's defensive organisation was exemplary, their attacking efforts were less eye-catching, with Edwin van der Sar spending most of the opening 45 minutes as a virtual spectator.
Indeed, Reading were so preoccupied with defence it was hard to remember them creating a single meaningful chance.
Rooney's injury allowed the Old Trafford crowd to glimpse the first of Ferguson's close-season signings in Premier League action, with Nani brought on to deputise for the England international.
The United debutant almost broke the deadlock with a beautifully struck shot that went narrowly wide.
Kitson came on for Kevin Doyle only to be sent off within a minute of his introduction for a dangerous tackle on Patrice Evra.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson:
The loss of Wayne Rooney was obvious.
"If he'd been on the pitch I think we'd have won the match.
"In the second half, chances started to come. We had some good chances and we just didn't take them."
Reading manager Steve Coppell:
"I want people to think we're more than just a defensive side.
"But your season-long dreams can be shattered very quickly here.
I'd have loved to have gone 4-4-2 and seen what happened but we'd have got hammered."
Man Utd: Van der Sar, Brown (Fletcher 77), Ferdinand, Vidic, Silvestre (O'Shea 57), Ronaldo, Scholes, Carrick, Evra, Giggs, Rooney (Nani 46).
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Pique.
Reading: Hahnemann, De la Cruz, Ingimarsson, Duberry, Shorey, Murty, Ki-Hyeon (Oster 57), Harper, Gunnarsson, Hunt (Bikey 87), Doyle (Kitson 72).
Subs Not Used: Federici, Cisse.
Sent Off: Kitson (73).
Booked: Ki-Hyeon, Oster.
Ref: Robert Styles (Hampshire).