Middlesbrough woes worsen with Manchester United defeat
Posted: 19 March 2017 Time: 16:09
Managerless Middlesbrough's relegation woes continued after Manchester United inflicted a 3-1 defeat on the Premier League side at the Riverside on Sunday afternoon.
Maroaune Fellaini opened the scoring with a header at the back-post to give United a slender lead going into the break.
Forward Jesse Lingard doubled the advantage on the hour-mark with a moment of sheer individual brilliance, before substitute Rudy Gestede pulled one back to set up a tense finale.
However, Antonio Valencia scored his first goal in three years to secure the points in stoppage-time.
Middlesbrough started the brighter of the two sides, with caretaker boss Steve Agnew looking to release the shackles of the defence minded side.
Aitor Karanka lost his job in mid-week due to his ultra defensive approach and lack of goals in their return to the top-flight and United exploited their willingness to go forward - since the departure of the Spaniard.
Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Juan Mata started up front for Mourinho and offered plenty of pace and direct running in the open pockets of space in and around the Boro area. However, goalkeeper Victor Valdes proved to be the difference in the opening-half.
United had the first clear-cut opportunity when Rashford was played in through on goal by Lingard - who then forced Valdes into an incredible reflex save after six minutes.
The former United keeper was called upon again 15 minutes later, with a double save from point blank range. First Rashford running onto a Mata cut-back and then from wing-back Valencia followed up on the rebound.
Despite the imperious form of the Spain international, United went ahead on the half-hour mark after some poor marking from the home side. Fellaini was left totally unmarked at the back-post when Ashley Young whipped in a pin-point cross to the back post. The big Belgian had the easiest of tasks to head home the visitors first of the afternoon, and they held the slender advantage until the break.
Boro threatened United's back three of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly on a few occasions in the opening few minutes of the second-half - but Alvaro Negredo was isolated with the half-chances created by Stewart Downing and co.
On the hour-mark, Agnew's side fell even further behind with a moment of individual brilliance from Lingard, as he found his first league goal in 13 months. The England international picked up a loose ball in midfield before driving close to the Boro area and smashed a 25-yard thunderbolt into the top right corner of Valdes net - leaving the veteran keeper rooted to the spot.
Despite Lingard's wonder strike, second-half substitute Gestede made sure their was still a glimmer of hope for the home supporters in the final stages, as he bagged his first goal for the club 15 minutes later - when he profited from a Smalling error inside the six-yard box.
But Mourinho opted to park the bus with Agnew's side picking up the ascendency and saw out the game thanks to Valencia profiting from a Valdes slip in stoppage-time, to tap the ball into an empty net and move up into fifth place, ahead of Arsenal.
The defeat now leaves the home side in real danger of the drop, eight points from safety, and 11 games without win.