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Connections: Middlesbrough – A triple Champions League winner and Fergie’s 75th birthday

Manchester United welcome Aitor Karanka’s Middlesbrough side to Old Trafford on New Years Eve hoping to finish 2016 on a high. Jose Mourinho’s men are eleven unbeaten in all competitions, winning their last five. The 3-1 victory against Sunderland last time out made it five wins on the bounce in all competitions for the Reds, an achievement that hasn’t been replicated for the entire calendar year. Despite the winning run, United still sit in sixth in the Premier League, four points adrift of fourth placed Arsenal. The visitors are fifteenth, just four points clear of the relegation zone and haven’t won on their travels since the opening weekend, a run of eight games.

The match at the Theatre of Dreams on Saturday marks the 75th birthday of former manager Sir Alex Ferguson. The legendary Scotsman oversaw the last league meeting between the two sides back in 2009 as United came away from the Riverside Stadium with a 2-0 victory, Ryan Giggs and Ji-Sung Park getting on the scoresheet.

The ‘Boro boast two former United players in their ranks as Victor Valdes and Fabio are likely to start at Old Trafford at the weekend. Let’s take a look at a few things that connects the two teams, starting with the former Barcelona keeper Valdes.

Victor Valdes

It was seen as a bit of a coup when free agent Victor Valdes signed for Manchester United in January 2015, after all, the Spaniard made over 500 appearances for Barcelona and won the Champions League on three separate occasions with the Catalan club. He played just twice for the Reds in 18 months and spent the final few months of his contract on loan at Belgian side Standard Liege before joining newly promoted Middlesbrough on a two-year deal in July of this year. The Spanish keeper has missed just two league games this season for the Boro however made a howler last week which resulted in Burnley’s winner.

Fabio da Silva

The Da Silva twins joined the Reds in 2007 from Brazilian club Fluminense however could not be registered as Manchester United players until their 18th birthday in July 2008. Fabio, the brother of Rafael, made his debut for the club in January 2009, in a 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup. The Brazilian defender went on to make just 56 appearances for the Reds, his brother, Rafael, made over 100 more appearances (169) for the club. Fabio joined fellow Premier League side Cardiff City during the January transfer window in 2014 however was relegated with the club that season. He spent two seasons in England’s second tier with Cardiff before joining newly promoted Middlesbrough at the beginning of the 2016/17 campaign.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s 75th Birthday

Manchester United’s match up against Middlesbrough on Saturday is the Reds final game of the calendar year and it is also Sir Alex Ferguson’s birthday. The former United boss turns 75 at the weekend and it’s safe to say it’s never been the same since the Scotsman announced his retirement in 2013. He bowed out lifting United’s 20th title in 2013 however the Reds have only finished in the top four once since he left his post. Fergie spent 26 years at the Theatre of Dreams, winning an incredible 38 trophies. New manager Jose Mourinho will be hoping for a better result than the last time that United played on New Years Eve. On Fergie’s 70th birthday in 2011, Blackburn Rovers took all three points away from Old Trafford with a shock 3-2 victory. United lost the league on goal difference on the final day to rivals Manchester City that year while Blackburn Rovers were relegated to the Championship.

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