Manchester United’s French Connection came to the rescue to help the Red Devils end the year 2016 on a high note, despite making the win look a doubtful one until some crazy minutes in the end, as Middlesbrough proved to be a tougher nut to crack than initially thought. SAF, who is celebrating his 75th birthday today watching in the stands must have been relieved to see the team win and produce a wonderful comeback as well, which may be rolled back the years when he was in charge.
United endured a tensed first five minutes in the first half, as Middlesbrough looked to open the score on a break led by the very lively Adama Traore, but slowly yet surely, the Red Devils started to gather their usual pace, and pinned back Middlesbrough as the half wore on. Pogba came close to score but his acrobatic attempt struck the post, then Martial saw his long range attempt hit the post as well, but in the continuity of the action, his cross for Zlatan to meet the ball in his usual tae kwon do style and score was harshly disallowed by the referee, who adjudged the striker played too dangerously towards Valdes in goal, the latter doing some very good acting as well of being hit and being injured, while replays showed there was nothing wrong in Zlatan’s attempt. With the goal not standing, United seemed to have taken a big blow, and gradually slumped while waiting for half time to come.
United failed to make a real impact as the second half started, and instead found themselves trailing on the 66th minute, following a quick conterattack by Middlesbrough, and Leadbitter concluded with the first attempt on target to send the away fans in ecstasy, while the home crowd were subdued. United looked to be heading for a defeat, as Martial spurned a fine chance to equalize, but on levelled the match on the 85th minute. Zlatan sent a delighful header into the Frenchman’s path, and he steered the ball in with ease that left Valdes a mere spectator. Middlesbrough tried to pose some problems again in the other half, but United were the ones to respond this time on another attack on the 86th minute, this time Mata sending in a pin-perfect cross to Pogba, who headed the ball under the bar, with Valdes yet again helpless. The Red Devils held on for the precious win, as they now prepare themselves for a trip to West Ham in a couple of days, where they will need to stay focus to keep the momentum going on, and to keep the pressure on the top teams in the table.