Middlesbrough vs. Manchester United
Venue: Riverside Stadium
Date: Sunday, 19 March 2017
Kick-off: 12:00 GMT
Manchester United kept the pace with the top four with a 3-1 away victory at Middlesbrough.
Marouane Fellaini and Jesse Lingard opened the scoring, before substitute Rudy Gestede made for a tense finale after pulling a goal back.
But as the hosts searched for a leveller, it was Antonio Valencia who secured the win, taking advantage of Victor Valdes’ slip and roll the ball into the net.
Early on, Marten De Roon’s header deflected over off Chris Smalling, before Marcus Rashford raced through at the other end but Valdes made a low save when the striker should’ve scored.
A snap shot from Grant Leadbitter flew over before Gaston Ramirez cut inside and curled an effort which forced David De Gea to push the shot behind.
Ashley Young’s inswinging corner was headed wide by Fellaini before a thread of chances all at once were denied.
Firstly, Juan Mata’s low cross was met by Rashford who was thwarted at close range by Valdes, before turning away Valencia’s rebound with Michael Carrick high and aimless with a follow-up.
The opening goal then arrived with Young cutting back onto his favoured right foot, and his deep cross from the left was headed in by Fellaini at the back post.
Lingard’s shot deflected behind as Smalling headed wide from the resulting corner before half-time arrived on a windy Teeside afternoon.
The pace of the counter-attack then saw United double their lead after the interval as Lingard ran forward before arrowing a sublime finish into the top corner.
Alvaro Negredo then headed straight into the arms of his fellow Spaniard De Gea before the former headed wide from Ramirez’s sweeping cross.
Pushing for a way back into the game, Middlesbrough continued to lump balls into the box, and as Smalling missed his clearance, Gestede slotted home to half the deficit.
Into stoppage it went, and Valencia broke clear from a Middlesbrough corner before applying pressure to former keeper Valdes, and the Spaniard slipped to allow Valencia to tap home and seal the points.
For the first time in months, United moved up to fifth, as they headed into the international break with a victory under their belts.
This feels like a big three points given the hectic schedule of late, with the suspensions of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ander Herrera and injuries to Daley Blind, Paul Pogba and Wayne Rooney stretching the squad, but his was a team effort that dug in to get the job done.
They had to defend deep and defend well at times, but the pace on the break and control of the tempo when in possession meant that this was deserved for Jose Mourinho’s side.
With the Premier League returning on April 1st, West Bromwich Albion will be the visitors to Old Trafford in a 3pm kick-off.
United: De Gea; Smalling, Jones, Bailly; Valencia, Carrick, Fellaini, Young; Mata (Rojo 69), Rashford (Darmian 90+5), Lingard (Martial 80).
Subs not used: Romero, Fosu-Mensah, Shaw, Mkhitaryan.
Manager: Jose Mourinho
Middlesbrough: Valdez; Barragan, Bernardo, Gibson, Fabio; Clayton, Leadbitter (Gestede 68), De Roon; Ramirez (Traore 68), Negredo, Downing.
Subs not used: Guzan, Fry, Forshaw, Guedioura, Stuani.
Caretaker Manager: Steve Agnew