Sergio Agüero's goal was a world apart from the one he crashed into the net against QPR at Eastlands just over a year ago. However, on a wet and miserable Berkshire evening Roberto Mancini's name was sung with equal, if not more, emotion than after that historic victory which earned Manchester City a first Premier League title.
Memories of that Agüero goal are all that Mancini now has as he seeks new employment, but there is no doubt that the Italian departs against the will of the fans – "Forza Mancini" and "Grazie Mancini" were the banners unfurled by City supporters following his sacking by the club on Monday night, and his name was sung vociferously throughout against already-relegated Reading and following the Italian's abject arrivederci at Wembley.
The assistant Brian Kidd took charge for City's first match without Mancini since December 2009, with David Platt's departure from the club confirmed earlier in the evening, and it was a much-improved performance from the FA Cup final defeat to Wigan Athletic. Agüero finished clinically five minutes before half-time after a slick move down the left flank involving James Milner and David Silva before Edin Dzeko made sure of the points late on, with Silva again the architect.
The result assures City of a second-place finish in the league but the football seemed like an afterthought on a dank evening as gloomy as the mood in the City camp, although the players did throw their shirts to the fans after the final whistle.
The Reading manager, Nigel Adkins, said Mancini's departure was not surprising in the current climate. "We have to understand that it's football," he said. "There are demands and there is high-finance involved now. Owners and people in charge have every right to do what they believe is right. You don't know what goes on at football clubs. It is more prevalent that managers don't get that long period of time unfortunately, because of the demands. I don't know the goings-on and ins-and-outs at Manchester City. I've [only] had two minutes with Brian [Kidd], he's a great football man and a great man for Manchester City."
Vincent Kompany was omitted from the City squad due to tiredness, with Micah Richards handed the captain's armband in only his sixth league appearance of the campaign. Richards replaced the suspended Pablo Zabaleta following his sending off in the FA Cup final, with Matija Nastasic and Samir Nasri also dropping out of the side.
City tried to shake off their Wembley malaise in a rousing opening 10 minutes during which they were unlucky not to take the lead. Milner first scooped an effort over Alex McCarthy's crossbar from the edge of the penalty area before the Reading goalkeeper dived low to claim a Silva shot.
He had to be alert again when Carlos Tevez picked up the ball on the edge of the area and slid it through to Milner, but his toe-poke from close range was excellently stopped and Agüero's follow-up was blocked as well.
Reading named an unchanged side from their impressive victory at Fulham but they had to wait until the 19th minute before they had a first effort on target. Hal Robson-Kanu's shot from 25 yards was saved comfortably by Joe Hart.
Garath McCleary then cut inside from the left flank and from just inside City's penalty area tried to swerve a shot into the far corner, but Hart palmed the ball away.
McCarthy was powerless, though, to deny Agüero in the 40th minute, the Argentinian sliding a precise finish past the goalkeeper from inside the area following a neat one-two between Milner and Silva down the left. That cued the inevitable Mancini chants from the City end.
With little to play for, the game became a dour affair with City continuing to press forward. Tevez danced around three blue and white shirts before firing woefully over the bar before the substitute Dzeko, brought on for Agüero, fired a left-footed effort tamely at McCarthy following good work from Silva and Yaya Touré saw his powerful effort tipped over by the goalkeeper.Jem Karacan had a fierce shot from 25 yards saved by Hart but as Mancini's name rang out again, City secured the points with a second goal from Dzeko, who was brought on for Tevez two minutes after the hour. The Bosnian waltzed through the Reading defence to underline City's superiority.
"We've played against a good side," said Adkins. "You've got to give them a lot of credit. They've obviously had a bit of turmoil at their club in the last couple of days and credit to their players because they've had a right go tonight."