Barclays Premier League
Manchester United 2-1 Middlesbrough
Martial 85 Leadbitter 67
Manchester United came from behind to beat Middlesbrough at Old Trafford on New Year’s Eve in the Premier League. Captain Grant Leadbitter put the underdogs in front in the 67th minute, before the home side scored two goals in the space of a minute from Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba to snatch a deserved victory.
Middlesbrough started the game well and should’ve really taken the lead early on. Adama Traore made a good run on the right-hand side and got through the defence quite easily but could only shoot wide.
United dominated play for the vast majority of the first half but didn’t take their chances. Paul Pogba ambitiously attempted an overhead kick on the end of Valencia’s 14th minute cross, and the £89million midfielder failed to connect with it.
Whilst the ball was in Middlesbrough’s half for the vast majority of the game, the away side made good use of the ball when they had it in United’s half. Adama Traore got past Blind with ease and he beat De Gea with his cross,finding Friend, but the left-back’s shot was blocked by Antonio Valencia in the 18th minute.
United’s best chance of the half so far came from Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian midfielder headed onto the top netting after an immaculate cross from Anthony Martial on the left hand side in the 32nd minute.
Martial found himself in the action again six minutes later, trying his luck from long range- forcing Victor Valdes into a great save to his left.
Moments later, Valdes was at the centre of a controversy. Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed home from a good cross from the left to supposedly put Mourinho’s side in front, but then the goal was disallowed due to a foul on the Middlesbrough keeper. The former Barcelona man was booed by United fans for the rest of the game as he didn’t appear to be fouled, yet he was rolling around on the floor.
It was goalless at half time.
In the second half, Manchester United had many chances- and you could sense that a goal for the home side was imminent. Ibrahimovic found himself clean through on goal but had his shot blocked by Valdes in the 50th minute, whilst Pogba attempted another overhead soon after and Mkhitaryan had a massive chance going just wide but he was offside anyway.
Surprisingly however, it was the away side that took the lead following a lapse of concentration from the United defence. Alvaro Negredo laid the ball off to Grant Leadbitter, who made a good run on the right, and the Boro captain smashed the ball in the left-hand corner much to the surprise of De Gea, who had hardly anything to do all game.
Marcus Rashford was brought on by Mourinho in the 72nd minute, and he proved to be a very effective substitute. A minute after coming on, the 19 year old made a great run on the left hand side and his shot across goal went just wide.
United continued to pile the pressure on Boro, who by now had reverted to a 5-4-1 formation, and Martial found himself through on goal in the 81st minute with Valdes keeping the away side in front with a brilliant last-ditch save.
Four minutes later, United got what they deserved. Anthony Martial scored the equaliser for Mourinho’s side with a shot from close range going into the top right corner.
This drove some momentum amongst the home support, spurring the Red Devils to a winner just moments after their first goal. Paul Pogba headed home for United following a fantastic ball in from the right, sending the fans into jubilation.
Middlesbrough didn’t really ever look like scoring an equaliser- even with four minutes added. Their only attempt came from Adam Forshaw- and it was very ambitious being quite far out and consequently not troubling David De Gea at all.
United’s win mean that they remain unbeaten since October and sit in sixth position going into 2017. Up next for Mourinho’s side is West Ham away on Monday. Middlesbrough on the other hand now sit in 16th position, and face champions Leicester at home on Monday.
Manchester United: de Gea 7, Valencia 8, Bailly 7 , Smalling 6(c) (Rashford 72), Blind 5(Rojo 64), Mkhitaryan 8, Pogba 8, Herrera 7, Fellaini 7 (Mata 64), Ibrahmovic 7, Martial 9.
Sub ratings: Rojo 6, Mata 7, Rashford 8
Subs not used: Romero (GK), Jones, Rojo, Lingard.
Middlesbrough: Valdes 8, Chambers 7, Espinosa 7, Gibson 7, Friend 6, Forshaw 8, de Roon 6, Leadbitter 7 (c) (Clayton 78), Downing 4 (Ramirez 63), Traore 8 (Fabio 82), Negredo 7.
Sub ratings: Clayton 6, Ramirez 6, Fabio 6
Subs not used: Ayala, Rhodes, Guzan (GK), Stuani.