Manchester United earned a 2-1 win over Middlesbrough in the final ten minutes of the match, after two wonderful goals from Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba to deny Middlesbrough and Lee Mason of a victory. United looked suspect from the moment the team sheet was revealed, with the underperforming Chris Smalling joining Marouane Fellaini in the team. However, United was forced to rotate the side because they play again on Monday, and the side was coping well with the scheduling difficulties, playing well to break Middlesbrough’s deep defence in the first half.
Pogba struck the post early from a ridiculous bicycle kick, though he was offside anyways. The first moment of real quality came from Martial, though, as he smashed his shot on the post from 30 yards out. Soon after, the Frenchman won the ball back and crossed for Ibrahimovic to score with an acrobatic kick. Ibrahimovic’s goal was denied by Lee Mason, for dangerous play, because his foot was supposedly high, even though Valdes was the one who fouled Ibrahimovic, and his foot was down. Because of arguably the worst decision of the Premier League season, Ibrahimovic was denied from being the top scorer in Europe in 2016, over Lionel Messi. These frustrations echoed at Old Trafford when the half-time whistle was blown, as United fans booed the referee off the pitch.
In the second half, United struggled to break Boro down once again, seemingly missing the calmness of Michael Carrick. An error from Chris Smalling allowed Middlesbrough to get ahead in the match, provoking protests from United fans. The goal came as a result of two errors from Smalling, failing to track Alvaro Negredo, who headed the ball down to Grant Leadbitter, and Smalling tried to compensate for his first error and failed horribly, clearing the way for Leadbitter to score with Middlesbrough’s first shot on target.
United removed Fellaini and Smalling, both of whom struggled in the match, for Mata and Rashford, and United was denied two penalties from clear fouls. The first occurred when Rashford was held back after dribbling through the defence, and pulled over, but the referee did not budge. The second happened when Martial was leveled by a Middlesbrough player when he was one-v-one with the goalkeeper. Martial was obviously fouled, and injured in the process, because it was malicious, but United was still not given a penalty.
Finally, though, the ghosts of the first half came back in the last 10 minutes to help United win the match. First, Martial was given a clear opportunity in the middle of the box and did not make his mistake, burying the ball and sealing his place as man of the match. After that, Pogba scored a header from a wonderful Juan Mata cross. The two players who hit the post scored the important goals as United defied horrible and unfair officiating to win the match. This showed that, even when life is unfair, you can be in control of your own destiny, and United ultimately deserved the three points.
Goals: Anthony Martial 85′, Paul Pogba 86′
Assists: Zlatan Ibrahimovic 85′, Juan Mata 86′
Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling (Rashford 72′), Bailly, Blind (Rojo 64′); Fellaini (Mata 64′), Herrera; Mkhitaryan, Pogba, Martial; Ibrahimovic
Substitutes Not Used: Romero, Jones, Lingard, Schweinsteiger
Bookings: Daley Blind 57′