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Report: Fellaini, Lingard and Valencia fire United into fifth

Manchester United beat Middlesbrough 3-1 at the Riverside with Marouane Fellaini scoring the opening goa in the 30th minute of the match. Jesse Lingard then doubled Unite’s lead with a stunning goal in the 62nd minute, before Rudy Gestede got one back for Boro in the 77th minute. Antonio Valencia scored a third with Victor Valdes on the floor in the dying minutes of the match to secure the victory and rise United up to fifth in the Premier League, sending Arsenal into sixth place.

Jose Mourinho made seven changes from the Rostov match with David De Gea, Phil Jones, Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini, Ashley Young, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard all being involved from the start today. One thing is for certain, Manchester United will not end up in sixth place by the end of today; they will either remain in seventh where they started the day or in fifth place, which is what needs to be happening. United started well from the off, getting a chance through Marcus Rashford who forced Victor Valdes into a low save. Eight minutes later, Middlesbrough had their first chance through Gaston Ramirez with David De Gea parrying his curling effort.

The home side has more possession in the opening fifteen minutes of the match, but a chance to each makes it a fair fight so far. United are missing some creative influence with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ander Herrera, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial all not starting, but the two not suspended are on the bench, should they be needed. United had another great chance in the 23rd minute but Valdes made a double save with both Marcus Rashford and Antonio Valencia both attempting to break the deadlock, unlucky. Michael Carrick tried to get something the attack also, firing over the crossbar. Juan Mata’s positioning was good in that attack.

Phil Jones found himself with a booking for a challenge on Alvaro Negredo in the 25th minute of the match, nothing came of the resulting free-kick. In the 30th minute of the match, after repeated attacks from United with players sneaking in at the back, United took the lead through a Marouane Fellaini header, assisted by Ashley Young. United maintained their attacking style after the goal, seemingly looking to double their lead. Jesse Lingard fired a long-range effort towards goal, which was deflected for a corner. United were unable to gain anything from the corner.

The first half ended with United 1-0 up through Fellaini, but also having ten shot; four of those on target, three off target and three being blocked. Mourinho’s side played well in the first half, despite having less than 40% of the ball, getting more chances in the important areas. The void left by Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba is visible, as United’s passing and possession is not so good. Maybe those who have been writing Pogba off as a failure need to take note of that. United need to put this match to bed in the second half with Boro passing eight hours since their last goal in the Premier League.

United started the second half well. although Chris Smalling could have had egg on his face as he attempted a diving header towards De Gea, missing it completely, presumably to not concede a back pass. United recovered from that, though, getting forward, but not yet threatening the home side like they should be doing. United, after a period of good play, doubled their lead through Jesse Lingard with a stunning strike into the top corner, assisted by Juan Mata. United were now cruising towards the victory they needed to take advantage of the demise of Arsenal, which we all saw coming. Boro had a chance at the other end moments later, De Gea stopped it.

In the 69th minute, United made their first change with Marcos Rojo replacing Juan Mata. The Argentinian had some defending to do from his first minute on the pitch in having to defend a Boro set piece, which came to nothing. Boro seemed to find some inspiration late in the game with plenty of attacking play against United, just nothing came of it. United had few chances, seemingly looking to defend their lead after doubling it. Boro got a goal back in the 77th minute of the match through Rudy Gestede after Smalling failed to clear his line. United now needed to keep their heads and the lead. Boro were more resurgent on the attack, deservedly so.

Mourinho made his second change with Anthony Martial replacing Lingard, who seemed to be carrying a slight injury. Martial’s quick feet and ability to beat his man, cut in and score might well be needed in the latter stages of the match with United holding onto their lead by the skin of their teeth, especially with Smalling in the middle of defence having the ability to mess things up for United. There was a bit of beef between Gestede and Eric Bailly in the dying stages of the game with a ticking off for Bailly from Jonathan Moss, not sure what Gestede was told. United scored a third goal with Antonio Valencia rounding Victor Valdes, who did a Gerrard to give United a 3-1 victory. Matteo Darmian replaced

United scored a third goal with Antonio Valencia rounding Victor Valdes, who did a Gerrard to give United a 3-1 victory. Matteo Darmian replaced Rashford two minutes into injury time. United moved up to fifth place in the Premier League now heading into a period of rest for many squad members and time to get ready for April, which will see United play nine matches, first up with West Bromwich Albion visiting Old Trafford.

Goals: Marouane Fellaini 30′, Jesse Lingard 62′

Assists: Ashley Young 30′, Juan Mata 62′

Manchester United: De Gea; Smalling, Jones, Bailly; Valencia, Carrick, Fellaini, Young; Mata (Rojo 69′), Rashford (Darmian 90+2′), Lingard (Martial 80′)

Substitutes Not Used: Romero; Fosu-Mensah, Shaw; Mkhitaryan

Bookings: Phil Jones 25′

Team News: Mata, Rashford & Lingard lead the attack; Martial & Shaw on the bench

Manchester United take on Middlesbrough at the Riverside in the Premier League this afternoon in a bid to rise from seventh to fifth place. On Saturday, Arsenal were beaten 3-1 by West Bromwich Albion, giving United another opportunity to better their league position, something they have been given plenty of chances to do, failing to do it. This could be the last chance to do so and Jose Mourinho’s side needs to capitalise. Everton beat Hull City 4-0, pushing United from sixth to seventh, ending their 17 match run in the position. This weekend, United can either find themselves in fifth, or seventh. Mourinho’s side is rather depleted at this moment in time with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ander Herrera suspended, also with the recent injury to Paul Pogba and the head injury to Daley Blind against Rostov, problems can be found in a lack of reinforcement to the squad. United will have to make do with what they have, ensuring they take all three points away from the Riverside.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Smalling, Jones, Bailly;

Valencia, Carrick, Fellaini, Young;

Mata, Rashford, Lingard

Substitutes:

Romero; Rojo, Fosu-Mensah, Shaw, Darmian; Mkhitaryan; Martial

Middlesbrough:

Valdes;

Barragan, Espinosa, Gibson, Fabio;

De Roon, Clayton, Leadbitter;

Ramirez, Negrado, Downing

Substitutes:

Guzan, Stuani, Fry, Guedioura, Gestede, Forshaw, Traore

Manchester United and Middlesbrough have played a total of 125 matches in all competitions dating back to 1894. United have won 63 times, drawing 28 times with Middlesbrough scalping United 34 times; the last, albeit on penalties after a 0-0 draw in the Capital One Cup on the 28th October 2015. United beat Middlesbrough 2-1 at Old Trafford on New Year’s Eve which saw a Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal ruled out, Boro taking the lead and United scoring twice in a minute through Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba, securing the victory four minutes before full-time. United will need to have their heads about them with this manager-less Boro side looking to get themselves out of the relegation zone.

Key Battles: Shaw, Mkhitaryan and Rashford key to beating Boro?

Manchester United will travel to Middlesbrough for the noon kick off on Sunday at the Riverside Stadium in the Premier League with both teams looking for the victory. Jose Mourinho’s side needs to better their sixth-placed Premier League position, of which they will have occupied for 104 days by the time the match comes around. Middlesbrough, fresh from sacking manager Aitor Karanka will be looking to start their turnaround and will be aiming to win their fifth match of the season in a bid, albeit not last-ditch yet, to survive their first season back in the Premier League, which does not look good at this moment in time. Mourinho’s side have been unbeaten in the league since October when they lost 4-0 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, losing there earlier in the week in the Emirates FA Cup. United played on Thursday night in the UEFA Europa League, beating Rostov 1-0 at Old Trafford to earn a place in the quarter-finals of the competition against Belgian side Anderlecht.

United will be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ander Herrera due to suspension, but injuries will play a part for the Portuguese manager too with Paul Pogba sidelined with a hamstring injury for a fortnight, Daley Blind likely to sit out after suffering a head injury against the Russian side and Bastian Schweinsteiger also remaining on the sidelines through injury. United could well be boosted by the return of both Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney, but nothing is certain on that at this moment in time. Middlesbrough have injuries of their own, which will undoubtedly cause a few problems, but playing a side who have just sacked a manager could pose more problems, especially with Leicester City’s escapades after dispatching Claudio Ranieri last month.

Who will the Key Battles involve at the Riverside on Sunday?

Luke Shaw v Fabio da Silva

Luke Shaw may not have played for Manchester United since the 1-1 draw with Bournemouth at the start of the month, but him being fresh could be good news for Jose Mourinho. For the last three matches now, Jose Mourinho has opted for a five at the back formation, utilising two wing-backs and three central defenders. Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind have been used as wing-backs so far, but Shaw coming back in would be a much better option because of his pace, defensive ability and the fact he can also play a part by going forward. If Shaw does feature, former United player Fabio da Silva could well be faced with a problem, providing he remains as the club’s right-back post-Karanka. Fabio has played well for Boro, making an average of six defensive actions per match, also creating nine chances for his teammates, so he could pose a similar problem to Shaw, but against United.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan v Ben Gibson

Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been in some good form this season, scoring seven goals so far, the last against Rostov in Russia just over a week ago. At Old Trafford on Thursday night, the Armenian was unlucky in front of goal, having some great chances, being denied by the keeper, which was unfortunate. Since being dropped after a performance in the Manchester derby earlier in the season, Mkhitaryan has gone from strength to strength earning a starting place in Jose Mourinho’s side, now being seen as the guy who can make the earth move in the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Ben Gibson, should he feature under interim manager Steve Agnew, may have to be at his best to thwart the Armenian who has an eye for a spectacular goal of two. United will need to be at the top of their game for this Middlesbrough side who now need to fight for survival, not just to remain in the Premier League next season, but also to keep their places on the team, and more importantly at the club past the summer. Mkhitaryan has created 26 chances for his teammates in the Premier League this season, also averaging two defensive actions per match, maintaining an 84% pass success rate. Gibson has an 85% pass success rate in the league, also averages nine defensive actions per match, which may well be needed against a resurgent United who are looking to grind out victories in order to better their league position this season.

Marcus Rashford v Victor Valdes

Marcus Rashford rose to the occasion over a year ago now by scoring a brace on his UEFA Europa League debut at home to Midtjylland, also scoring a brace three days later at home against Arsenal on his Premier League debut. This season Rashford has scored seven goals in all competitions, which is not a bad turnover of goals considering he has played as a winger most of the time. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic still suspended for the next two domestic matches, Rashford will be given the nod to lead the line as the most threatening attacker, which could see him pitted against former United goalkeeper Victor Valdes. The Spanish UEFA Champions League winner, who was highly decorated in his time playing for Barcelona and Spain left United as a free agent in the summer after being frozen out by then manager Louis van Gaal, also having a period on loan with Standard Liege before signing for fellow Spaniard Aitor Karanka may be at risk of being humiliated by Rashford, providing he is on point and predatory in front of goal. Of course, Valdes may lose his place to Brad Guzan, as has been the case recently.

Preview: Fatigue or a defeat not an option as United head to Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough v Manchester United

Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough

Premier League 2016/17

Sunday 19th March 2017; KO 12:00 GMT

Live on BT Sport

Manchester United face Middlesbrough at the Riverside at noon on Sunday, less than three days after their 1-0 (2-1 aggregate) victory over Russian side FC Rostov in the UEFA Europa League, earning a quarter-final against Belgian side Anderlecht next month. United had a tough week, losing to Chelsea in the Emirates FA Cup at Stamford Bridge on Monday evening, which saw Ander Herrera sent off and being his second of the season so far, being suspended for the next two domestic matches. On Thursday evening, United lost Paul Pogba to a hamstring injury, which will keep him out of action for a fortnight, also missing the international break, which can only be a good thing, especially with the tougher period coming from April which could see United playing a maximum of 17 matches, providing they go all the way to the final in the Europa League.

Middlesbrough may not have had a good week either. Aitor Karanka was sacked on Thursday, meaning Steve Agnew will steer the club into the match against United, which could go either of two ways; Boro continue to lose matches or all of a sudden, they pull something out of the bag and shock Jose Mourinho’s side, which would be about right from these players who seem to orchestrate the sacking of a manager, being whiter than white at the same time, it would see the players are never wrong and therefore are untouchable. Recently, by sacking a manager, Leicester City have found some good form winning twice in the Premier League, and earning a quarter-final place in the UEFA Champions League. United need to find some greater form. Being unbeaten in the league since October is alright, but if United were winning even half of their matches, of which they have drawn eight since then, their season story could be so different.

United would be sitting in second place, nine points adrift of league leaders Chelsea, which would put them in the unlikely position for a title charge, but needlessly a better position then they are ahead of the Boro match, which will see them occupying the sixth place in the league for 104 consecutive days in total. Sixth is not a great position in the league, but when you take into account that United have two fewer matches than Liverpool who are six points better off, one fewer than Chelsea (17 points better off), Tottenham Hotspur, and Manchester City who are both seven points better off, it shows that the route into the top four is not all that tough. United are also a point adrift of fifth-placed Arsenal.

Mourinho’s side still have to face Chelsea (16th April), Arsenal (provisionally 6th May), Tottenham Hotspur (provisionally 13th May) and still have the Manchester derby to be arranged by the Premier League, which along with the Southampton clash, also to be arranged, can fit into two spots this season, if United made it through Anderlecht in the Europa League and then into the final, whoever their opposition would be in the semi-finals. Fatigue is something which has already struck at United with Mourinho suggesting it played a part during the 1-0 victory over Rostov at Old Trafford on Thursday. The manager spoke about the problems, saying:

“I was afraid of extra time and some players were in trouble. I know that I can bring Rashford to the game, but at the same time I am afraid because I have at least Marcos Rojo in big trouble. It was a difficult game. We have lots of enemies. Normally the enemy should be Rostov but we have lots of enemies. It is difficult to play on Monday night with 10 men, it is difficult to play now, it is difficult to play on Sunday at 12 o’clock, so we have lots of enemies. The boys were fantastic. I can imagine some people will say we should play better, we could play better, we should score more goals, we should not have so many difficulties to beat this opponent, but the reality is we have lots of things going against us and we have to fight. The boys are amazing and we will probably lose the game on Sunday but we will try our best.”

Match Officials:

Jonathan Moss will referee the match between Middlesbrough and Manchester United on Sunday. This will be the third time in the Premier League this season he has been the referee in a United fixture after overseeing the 1-0 victory over Hull City back in August, the 1-1 draw against West Ham United in November and then this match. Moss was also the referee in the EFL Cup clash with Hull City back in January which saw United beaten 2-1, but into the final on aggregate. Moss issued eight yellow cards in the three matches that have been played, booking Marouane Fellaini, Wayne Rooney and Marcus Rashford against Hull in the league, Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini and Antonio Valencia against West Ham and Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo against Hull in the EFL Cup. Moss was slated for not awarding penalties in United’s favour against Hull in January. Moss’ assistant referees will be Simon Bennett and Eddie Smart with the fourth official named as Robert Madley.

Form:

Manchester United LDDWW: Jose Mourinho’s side have been unbeatable in the Premier League since October when they suffered a 4-0 humiliation at the hands of Chelsea. Being unbeatable is not necessarily a good thing though as the same United side have drawn eight times in the league since then, seemingly not having enough to find that winning goal to beat their opposition. Just four of those draws being turned into wins could have seen United eight points better off this season, which at this current time would have propelled them into second place, a point better off than Tottenham Hotspur and with a game in hand over them. United, though, have had a good season. The squad seems happy, willing to play for the manager and some decent signings have been made. The next transfer window should tell more of a story as to what Mourinho has in his plans for his club.

Middlesbrough LLLWD: Middlesbrough have not had the greatest of seasons on their return to the Premier League, currently sitting 19th and likely to be relegated if the team does not pull something out of the bag after the Aitor Karanka was sacked earlier this week. The North East side have only won four Premier League matches this season, the last a 3-0 drumming of Swansea City, who at the time were having problems of their own – now sitting three points clear of the drop zone. Boro have drawn ten and lost 13 matches, which is certain to grow as the weeks pass, unless the players did a ‘Chelsea’ and stopped playing for the manager, then grinding results as we saw with the Londoners and most recently Leicester City, who sacked Claudio Ranieri, then beat Liverpool and Hull 3-1, also turning a 2-1 defeat into a 3-2 aggregate victory over Sevilla in the UEFA Champions League, earning a quarter-final place against Atletico Madrid.

Former Reds: A meeting with some old friends, this time as foes!

Victor Valdes and Fabio da Silva could be pitted against some former Manchester United teammates if they are both selected in Steve Agnew’s matchday squad to entertain the Red Devils at the Riverside on Sunday. Valdes left United as a free agent in the summer after signing an 18-month deal under the management of Louis van Gaal, making his Premier League debut at the end of the 2014/15 season. Valdes was frozen out of the United squad under the Dutch manager the following season, opting to go on loan with Standard Liege in January 2016, leaving United as a free agent at the end of last season. Fabio signed for United with twin Rafael back in 2008 and made 56 appearances, scoring three goals. He left on loan with Queens Park Rangers in the 2012/13, leaving the club permanently for Cardiff City the following summer. Fabio signed for Middlesbrough last summer. His twin, Rafael left for Lyon in the summer of 2015.

Who are the Manchester United and Middlesbrough Top Scorers this season?

Manchester United: 26 – Zlatan Ibrahimović, 10 – Juan Mata, 7 – Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, 5 – Wayne Rooney, 4 – Jesse Lingard, 2 – Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini, Chris Smalling, 1 – Daley Blind, Own Goal, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Bastian Schweinsteiger

Middlesbrough: 7 – Álvaro Negredo, 5 – Cristhian Stuani, 3 – Marten de Roon, Grant Leadbitter, 2 – Stewart Downing, Gastón Ramírez, 1 – Daniel Ayala, Calum Chambers, Rudy Gestede, Ben Gibson, David Nugent

Team News:

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ander Herrera are both suspended for the next two domestic matches; Middlesbrough (A) and West Bromwich Albion (H). Paul Pogba has been ruled out of this match after suffering what seemed like a hamstring injury against Rostov on Thursday night and he also looks set to miss the entire international break, which could see him back in action in early April. Daley Blind seemed to suffer a head injury against the Russian side too, which could see him also sidelined for this match. Bastian Schweinsteiger could be another absentee with United suffering a midfield crisis with Herrera also suspended. Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial could both be back in action, giving United further options in the attack, or even in midfield where Rooney is concerned. Middlesbrough interim boss Steve Agnew will be without Rudy Gestede, Bernardo Espinosa, Daniel Ayala, George Friend and Callum Chambers, which leaves them quite light for the visit of United, who will be looking to take their chance to move further forward in their bid to escape 104 days at sixth place in the league.

Previous Meetings:

Middlesbrough and Manchester United have played 123 matches; the first being played on the 27th January 1894 – a 4-0 victory for United in the FA Cup. United have won a total of 63 matches, drawing 28 and losing just 34. The last time Middlesbrough beat United was on the 28th October 2015 after a 0-0 draw in the League Cup with Boro winning 3-1 on penalties. The last victory inside 90 minutes goes back to the 29th October 2005 when Boro demolished United 4-1 with a brace from Gaizka Mendieta, another goal from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and a penalty scored by Yakubu Ayegbeni. Cristiano Ronaldo scored the only goal scored by United. United beat Middlesbrough 2-1 at Old Trafford on New Year’s Eve in an ill-tempered match which saw a perfectly adequate Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal disallowed, then Boro taking the lead through Grant Leadbitter in the 67th minute. United scored through Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba a minute apart in the 85th and 86th minute to give United all three points. Jose Mourinho will be looking for a similar scoreline from United in their first visit to the Riverside in nearly eight years, winning 2-0 back on the 2nd May 2009 with Ryan Giggs and Ji-Sung Park scoring both of the goals.

Starting XI Prediction: Who is going to start against Middlesbrough?

Predicted Score:

Middlesbrough 1-3 Manchester United

March Preview: Mourinho aiming higher; revenge at Stamford Bridge?

Manchester United have a busy March schedule ahead of them after ending February undefeated with six wins and a draw. February saw United beat Saint-Etienne 4-0 on aggregate in the UEFA Europa League, earning a draw against Russian side FC Rostov in the round of 16 in the competition. A 2-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers in the Emirates FA Cup saw United drawn out against Chelsea in the quarter-final stage of the competition, which will be sandwiched between the two Europa League ties against the Russian side. United drew 0-0 with Hull City at the start of February, beating Leicester City 3-0 and Watford 2-0 in the Premier League. Ending February, United face Southampton in the final of the EFL Cup at Wembley, winning 3-2 with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring a brace and Jesse Lingard scoring yet another goal at the national stadium. March will be difficult and at the end of the month, we will see whether United continue to fight on three fronts with one trophy in the bag already.

Manchester United v AFC Bournemouth – Saturday 4th March 2017 – Premier League

Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth side has a good result against Manchester United least season, but in the opening match this season, United got revenge for that defeat beating the home side 3-1 with Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring their first Premier League goals of the season. Bournemouth sits 14th in the league ahead of the tie, 14 points from the safety point of 40 points which normally sees teams secure their position in the Premier League for the following season. I do not think Bournemouth will be relegated, but there is a long way to safety for them at this moment in time, a win over United at Old Trafford could put them in a good position to achieve safety this season, but with Liverpool being demolished 3-1 by Leicester City on Monday evening, United need the points more and could see them reach the dizzy heights of fifth place, at least until the result between Liverpool and Arsenal in the Saturday evening match comes out, which could be a good result for United, at least in them aiming for fourth place. A draw between the two would be equally as good but would see United take a bit longer to stay ahead of their bitter rivals who are forever in their shadows despite suggesting otherwise.

Match Prediction: Manchester United 3-1 AFC Bournemouth

FC Rostov v Manchester United – Thursday 9th March 2017 – UEFA Europa League

The Russian side sit seventh in the Russian Premier League at this stage of the season, but they have not played since the start of December and have had a two-month winter break. Their next Russian Premier League match is against Tom Tomsk on the 2nd March. Rostov have played three matches in the last two months; a 0-0 draw against PSV Eindhoven in the last group stage match of the UEFA Champions League and the two legs in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 against Sparta Prague in which they won 5-1 on aggregate. The trip to Russia, especially ahead of the visit to Stamford Bridge could be a tough tie for United and Mourinho, but he will have the players at his disposal to create a challenging side for all three matches in a seven-day period, which could see United exiting both cup competitions they still remain in this season. Rostov were in the Champions League earlier this season – sharing a group with Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, and PSV Eindhoven. The lost 5-0 and won 3-2 against Bayern Munich, drew 2-2 and 0-0 with PSV and were defeated twice; 1-0 and 2-1 by Atletico. United should have this match in the bag, away goals could give them the advantage.

Match Prediction: FC Rostov 0-3 Manchester United

Chelsea v Manchester United – Monday 13th March 2017 – Emirates FA Cup

Back in October 2016, United were destroyed by Chelsea conceding four goals throughout the match, which put some negative feedback into the lap of Jose Mourinho and his Manchester United squad. United soon found their feet weeks after the defeat opening a 17 match unbeaten run which was ended with a 2-1 defeat away to Hull City in the semi-final second leg of the EFL Cup which United won on aggregate to set up a final against Southampton. Chelsea will be a tough test for United but over recent weeks, Antonio Conte’s side have not entertained like they did earlier in the season and teams have found a way to beat them, which is something United will need to do in order to make the draw for the semi-final of the Emirates FA Cup which could put them well on their way to retaining the title they won under Louis van Gaal last season, earning at least another match at Wembley this season, which seems to be a stadium where they have some good form and results, which is what Tottenham Hotspur would have hoped for earlier in the season.

Match Prediction: Chelsea 1-2 Manchester United

Manchester United v FC Rostov – Thursday 16th March 2017 –UEFA Europa League

FC Rostov visit Old Trafford in a busy seven-day period for United who travel to Russia and Stamford Bridge, before playing at home again. March is a busy month for United in that they play twice in the Premier League, have three matches in cup competitions; UEFA Europa League and the Emirates FA Cup. Remaining in both competitions is a must for a good finish this season and with United still looking to pressure their rivals in the Premier League, although winning the league is not something which will be easy, if still possible, mathematically of course. The Russian side may have exited the group stage of the Champions League earlier this season, but beating Bayern will be seen as the pinnacle of their season, which could haunt United if they do not keep an eye on them. Winning the away match in the first leg will put United in good stead at home, which should see them in the last eight of the tournament, which is one stage further than last season after losing to Liverpool in this fixture.

Match Prediction: Manchester United 2-0 FC Rostov

Middlesbrough v Manchester United – Sunday 19th March 2017 – Premier League

On New Year’s Eve, United beat Middlesbrough 2-1 with two late goals, which came after an appalling first half with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s goal being disallowed, but that is fine to happen for United, but not against them. Boro will be looking to get their own way at the Riverside Stadium, which could put them in a great position to secure Premier League football next season. At the time this articles was published, on the 1st March, Boro were in the 17th position in the league, only goal difference keeping them out of the bottom three. Boro play two matches in the Premier League in March – on the 4th March against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium and against United at home on the 19th March. A defeat to Stoke, who need the victory themselves, will put the hosts in a precarious position before United roll up in the North East ahead of the international break at the end of the month.

Match Prediction: Middlesbrough 1-3 Manchester United

April looks set to be another busy month for United with five out of six fixtures being rearranged for television, which with the matches against Manchester City at the Etihad and the trip to Southampton at St Mary’s needing to find a space in the fixture list and the prospect of United earning a place in the last eight of the UEFA Europa League and the semi-final of the Emirates FA Cup, which could see the match against Burnley also being postponed next month. United are in good spirits ahead of their fixture pile-up, but the constant stream of matches could either make the side more determined to go on a cup run this season or it could go against them with not enough time to rest between matches and the squad being rotated week in and week out. Not that I am complaining. Manchester United are not yet back to their best, but in the past three seasons, this is the best United have been post-Sir Alex Ferguson.

Written by Mike Wilson

Mourinho: The Red family are happy for New Year’s Eve

Manchester United beat Middlesbrough 2-1 at Old Trafford on New Year’s Eve in a match which saw a disallowed goal through Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which was wrongly disallowed. Boro took the lead in the 67th minute of the match, which put United in a difficult situation in having to draw level then go for the match, which was exactly what they did. United levelled through Anthony Martial in the 85th minute of the match with Paul Pogba putting United ahead with a sublime header. United were now twelve matches unbeaten, also winning their last five matches in the Premier League, keeping a chase on the race for the top four this season. 2016 has ended well for United, with 2017 commencing in less than 48 hours with United travelling to the London Stadium to face West Ham United for the third time this season.

Jose Mourinho on the Fergie style victory over Middlesbrough:

“He deserves to come here and for people to remember the game not just for his 75th birthday but also for the kind of football we played and the fact that we managed to bring the fans to the pitch. In the last 20 minutes, the fans were on the pitch – they were not in the stands. And this is a credit to the players, who showed amazing character to go and go and go and go. This time we were successful and it’s three more points.”

Mourinho on his late team reshuffle:

“I put Mkhitaryan at left-back when we scored the second goal because at 1-0 it was Negredo and Traore against Bailly and Rojo – two against two. Valencia was the winger, we had no left-back and we went for everything. Then when we scored the second goal, obviously, we started to close. I thought Micki was really fresh and could do a better job at left-back than other players, and I wanted to keep Herrera and Pogba in the middle, and we managed to keep the 2-1.”

Mourinho “if you drive, drink water”:

“The Red family are happy for New Year’s Eve. I hope they enjoy the night – family, health and happiness are more important than football. But clubs are a part of people’s lives and can create even more happiness in families, so I’m sure they will enjoy tonight after this result. And, as I wrote in my programme notes, if you drive, drink water!”

Mourinho on having to play West Ham United in 48 hours:

“It’s a challenge for everybody but Chelsea, as they play only on the 4th; Tottenham play tomorrow [Sunday] and then on the 4th. For us and West Ham it’s the same – difficult. Middlesbrough play at 12 o’clock, so less than 48 hours. It’s very hard, especially when you see the intensity of this game; you can imagine that people need to rest, but there is no time to rest, so let’s go to London and enjoy the game against West Ham and try to get the points.”

CONFIRMED: Mkhitaryan, Martial and Pogba start against Middlesbrough

Manchester United will be pitted against Aitor Karanka’s Middlesbrough at Old Trafford in the Premier League on this afternoon, the first meeting between the two sides since they last met in the League Cup on the 28th October 2015, drawing 0-0 at the Theatre of Dreams, but losing 3-1 on penalties. In the league, Middlesbrough last met United on the 2nd May 2009, with United winning 2-0 with Ryan Giggs and Ji-Sung Park scoring the goals. Boro have a few former United players with Victor Valdes and Fabio da Silva on their ranks. Karanka worked with Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid a few years ago, so this match will mark the first battle between the two managers. United are on an eleven match unbeaten run, winning their last four matches in the Premier League, cutting an eleven point lead by Arsenal down to just four points, which shows just how open the top four is this season. United are still three points behind fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, which will most likely keep them in sixth place for their last match of 2016 whether it is a win, a loss or a draw. Mourinho will be looking to make it five in a row in the league, though, as with the players and the supporters.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Valencia, Smalling (C), Bailly, Blind;

Fellaini, Herrera;

Mkhitaryan, Pogba, Martial;

Ibrahimovic

Substitutes:

Romero, Jones, Rojo, Lingard, Mata, Schweinsteiger, Rashford

Preview: Manchester United to end 2016 in style?

Old Trafford, Manchester

Premier League 2016/17

Saturday 31st December 2016 – KO 15:00

Referee: Lee Mason

Assistant Referees: Mick McDonough and Darren Cann

Fourth Official: Neil Swarbrick

Manchester United host Aitor Karanka’s Middlesbrough at Old Trafford on New Year’s Eve in what will be a great end to 2016 for the Red Devils, providing they extend their eleven match unbeaten streak, adding to their four-match winning streak in the Premier League. United have been playing some great football over the past few months, not always getting the result they wanted or needed, but now United seem to be putting something together, playing well and getting results, which will only define them under the guidance of Jose Mourinho this season. United have suffered a poor three seasons since Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012/13 season, winning the Premier League title at a canter. Since then, United have failed to challenge for the title, something which may not return this season, but should return next season.

United are starting to find the best starting XI, which despite having to rotate when matches are played close together, like this week for instance, it is not always going to be the way we, the fans, may want it to be. United have some squad depth, players are able to play a few matches in a row avoiding fatigue but giving their best, which is great. Some may need a rest, but the fact United had an eight-day period between the victory over West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns and the victory over David Moyes’ Sunderland at Old Trafford, that rest seems to have been granted just in time for this run of fixtures which will see United playing again with just over 48 hours from the time the match against Middlesbrough should finish until the visit to the London Stadium to face West Ham United, for the third time in just over a month, will commence. That may mean Mourinho will need to rotate once again, keeping a fresh side for the visit of Reading in the Emirates FA Cup just five days later, which will also congest fixtures in January for Mourinho’s men.

Mourinho and Karanka have history as they worked together during the Portuguese manager’s tenure at Real Madrid. Saturday’s match will be the first head-to-head encounter between the two with Mourinho praising the Spaniard, saying:

“He studies, he has accumulated experiences as a player, assistant and now coach. That makes him very capable and what he has achieved so far is not surprising at all. Karanka is a man with great emotional stability, very calm, with a very good personality. I just hope I can do better things! Karanka today is a different coach to the one I knew during my time at Real Madrid.

“He had two-and-a-half years of experience first as a coach in the Championship, one of the most difficult and demanding championships in Europe. That has made him a much better professional, coming this year to the Premier League, which in my view is the most difficult league in the world. To have that experience is very important. With me what he showed is always a very important characteristic – to be an honest person.

“He’s a man of loyalty and great moral principles. When you have that characteristic, no matter the profession that you dedicate yourself to, you will always have an advantage. Aitor has shown me that and we will have a friendship forever. I think it is the beginning of everything.”

United are in a good position when it comes to player fitness with only Luke Shaw and Wayne Rooney on the sidelines, but Shaw should be back in action soon with the visit to West Ham a likely match he should be involved in, if not before. Failing that, the FA Cup clash against Reading might be a match he gets back into the thick of it. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial were both substitutes against Sunderland, with the former scoring a spectacular goal. The fact that both will be raring to go could be good for United, who need both fit and ready as they are the best players for the left and right wide positions, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic leading the line and Paul Pogba playing in the number ten role. Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera in midfield, and Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind filling the back four, with David De Gea in goal. Eric Bailly has recently recovered from another knee injury, he was back in training before Christmas but did not make the squad against Sunderland, which may suggest he was rested for the Boro match, being that will likely be his last at United before February with the African Cup of Nations set to commence in a matter of weeks. Perhaps he will play against Reading before leaving Manchester for Gabon.

Manchester United Form: WWWWW

Sunderland 3-1 W, West Bromwich Albion 2-0 W, Crystal Palace 2-1 W, Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 W, Zorya Luhansk 2-0 W

Manchester United are currently on an eleven match unbeaten streak, winning their last five matches in a row in all competitions, four of which have come in the Premier League, the first time United have won four league matches in a row since March 2015, which is a big achievement considering what United have gone through since that period. Jose Mourinho seems to have started something at United, something which never came under David Moyes, Ryan Giggs, or Louis van Gaal. United seem to be playing football reminiscent of the days of Sir Alex Ferguson, which is a good sign at this stage of the season, but United still have a long way to go in order to eclipse those famous days of the years gone by. United are playing some good football, taking their chances, finally, things are starting to take off.

Middlesbrough Form: LWLLW

Burnley 1-0 L, Swansea City 3-0 W, Liverpool 3-0 L, Southampton 1-0 L, Hull City 1-0 W

Middlesbrough rose from the Championship last season as the runners-up, just behind champions Burnley, who are currently just above them with a cushion of two points in the Premier League this season. Boro are in fifteenth place with 18 points from 18 matches this season, which is not the best form, but considering they have just made the jump from the Championship to the Premier League, that can be forgiven. Boro are the second highest promoted side this season, with Hull City, the play-off winners currently sitting at the bottom of the league, certain to be relegated unless they find some form and turn their season around. Boro can be a tough side, but against United, in their period of form, I see Mourinho’s men doing the business once again.

Manchester United Top Scorers:

17 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 5 – Juan Mata, Paul Pogba, 4 – Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, 3 – Jesse Lingard, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Wayne Rooney, 1 – Daley Blind, Michael Carrick, Own Goal, Ander Herrera, Chris Smalling

Middlesbrough Top Scorers:

5 – Álvaro Negredo, 3 – Cristhian Stuani, 2 – Marten de Roon, Gastón Ramírez, 1 – Daniel Ayala, Calum Chambers, Stewart Downing, Ben Gibson, David Nugent

Manchester United Squad;

Manager: Jose Mourinho

Goalkeepers: David De Gea, Sergio Romero, Sam Johnstone

Defenders: Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian, Axel Tuanzebe

Midfielders: Paul Pogba, Memphis Depay, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Michael Carrick, Ashley Young, Ander Herrera, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marouane Fellaini, Morgan Schneiderlin

Forwards: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford

Injuries and Suspensions: Luke Shaw (knock), Wayne Rooney (muscle)

Middlesbrough Squad:

Manager: Aitor Karanka

Goalkeepers: Dimitrios Konstantopoulos, Brad Guzan, Tomás Mejías, Víctor Valdés

Defenders: Fábio, George Friend, Daniel Ayala, Bernardo Espinosa, Ben Gibson, Antonio Barragán, Calum Chambers, James Husband, Jordan McGhee, Mark Kitching, Nathan McGinley

Midfielders: Grant Leadbitter, Adam Clayton, Marten de Roon, Carlos de Pena, Stewart Downing, Gastón Ramírez, Julien De Sart, Emilio Nsue, Bryn Morris, Adam Forshaw, Alex Pattison, Lewis Maloney, Robbie Tinkler

Forwards: Jordan Rhodes, Álvaro Negredo, Viktor Fischer, Cristhian Stuani, David Nugent, Adama Traoré

Injuries and Suspensions: Viktor Fischer (knee)

Predicted Starting XI:

Predicted Score:

Manchester United 3-1 Middlesbrough

Manchester United Festive Preview

Manchester United will play three times between Boxing Day and the 2nd January 2017. Jose Mourinho’s side, who have been playing some tremendous football at this stage of the season, will be looking to extend their ten-match unbeaten run in all competitions, which includes the last three Premier league fixtures, which United have won, beating Tottenham Hotspur, Crystal Palace, and West Bromwich Albion. David Moyes’ Sunderland will visit the Theatre of Dreams on Boxing Day, with Aitor Karanka’s Middlesbrough visiting Old Trafford on New Year’s Eve and United then travelling to the London Stadium to face Slaven Bilić’s West Ham United, for the third time in just over a month.

United drew 1-1 with the Hammers in the league at Old Trafford, beating them 4-1 three days later in the EFL Cup. United’s festive period sees them in a good position, still sixth-placed in the league; three points behind fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur and four points behind fourth-placed Arsenal. Manchester City sits in third just six points ahead of United, so there really is everything to play for, despite United being written off in the league some weeks ago. Winning the title will be unlikely, but finishing in a UEFA Champions League place is very much possible, right now at least.

Sunderland – Monday 26th December 2016 – Old Trafford – KO: 15:00 GMT

David Moyes returns to Old Trafford as a manager on Boxing Day, just shy of three years since he was sacked by the Red Devils for a poor season in charge of the club, his first of what could have been six years. United will be looking for Jose Mourinho to lead them to victory against the struggling Premier League side, who sit in 18th place in the league, a point away from safety. Sunderland has earned themselves just 14 points in 17 Premier League matches this season, winning four matches, drawing twice and losing eleven. Moyes’ side have scored only 15 goals in the league, conceding 28, leaving them in a precarious position. Injury has struck Moyes’ side this season, which will see Paddy McNair miss the return to his former club, having been ruled out this season with a knee injury. Adnan Januzaj is not allowed to play against his

Adnan Januzaj is not allowed to play against his parent club, which will leave Donald Love as the only recent departure from the club eligible to play. John O’Shea will be pitted against his former club, though. Sunderland usually survives relegation, have done for the past few seasons, which is pretty unfortunate as they never better themselves, just play the same pitiful football, drag their supporters through a season of turmoil and then, in the last few matches of the season, pull a dramatic bid for safety. Hopefully, this season, Moyes’ magic will rub off and the Mackems will end up in a league they belong in – the Championship.

Match Prediction: Manchester United 3-0 Sunderland

Middlesbrough – Saturday 31st December 2016 – Old Trafford – KO: 15:00 GMT

Aitor Karanka’s Middlesbrough side won promotion from the Championship last season. They are currently the highest placed side which won promotion to the Premier League last season, sitting in 14th place with 18 points after playing 17 matches. Boro have played well at times, but also suffered, which will give them something to fight for come the end of the season. Boro has won four matches this season, drawing six and losing seven; scoring 16 goals, conceding just 19. Burnley, the Championship champions last season are in 16th position in the league, just three points adrift of Boro, with Hull City, the play-off winners, are positioned in the relegation zone, the bottom team in the table with just 12 points from 17 matches, winning three times, drawing three times and losing eleven matches. Hull look likely contenders for relegation, whereas Middlesbrough, at this moment in time, look well positioned to remain in the Premier League.

Boro currently have two former Manchester United players, who could both return to the Theatre of Dreams; Fabio da Silva and Victor Valdes. The Spanish goalkeeper left United in the summer on a free, signing for Karanka’s Premier League side. Fabio left United in 2014 for Cardiff, finding his way to Middlesbrough during the summer, establishing himself in the team. Valdes and Fabio could well cause United some problems, but with the player’s United have available, it could be a return to the Theatre of Dreams which both will want to forget. United find themselves in a position whereby they need to keep winning, in order to catch those out above them, earning a higher position in the league, which if both Arsenal and Spurs slip up just once, could see United firm their sites on one of their positions, leaving them to fight for scraps for the remainder of the season, which would be so great to see.

Match Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Middlesbrough

West Ham United – Monday 2nd January 2017 – London Stadium – KO: 17:15 GMT

Manchester United will travel for the first time to the London Stadium to face West Ham United in the Premier League. Both teams have a history, but the Hammers are not having a very good season. Slaven Bilić needs some players to leave his side contending for something, which at this stage can only be a better position in the league at the end of the season. West Ham currently sits in 13th place in the Premier League, earning 19 points in 17 matches. The Hammers have won five matches, drawing four and losing eight; scoring 19 goals, conceding 31, which leaves them wide open as clubs with better forward lines will wreak havoc against them. Bilić has recently been linked to two Manchester United players; Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, seeing them both as loan options based on the matches they play for United this season. Both look unlikely to be allowed to leave on loan and one would question whether both would see it as an opportunity or a punishment.

West Ham is a club many hate, especially in the fact their club is literally run by the taxpayer with them not paying much to keep the London Stadium running, let alone paying much to convert the former Athletics stadium into one to host football matches. For a Premier league team to be run this way is questionable to those allowing the country to keep them. Ashley Fletcher, a striker who left the United Academy in the summer could be a handful against his former side, scoring against them in the EFL Cup, equalising in the 35th minute, 33 minutes after Zlatan Ibrahimovic took the lead. In the second half, United took the lead again just three minutes into the half through Martial, who scored again 14 minutes later. Zlatan completed the scoring in injury time with United winning 4-1.

Match Prediction: West Ham United 1-3 Manchester United

Manchester United will be busy throughout January with the Emirates FA Cup commencing with United drawing Jaap Stam’s Reading at Old Trafford on Saturday 7th January 2017, KO 12:30, then the EFL Cup semi-final first leg against Hull City at the Theatre of Dreams on Tuesday 10th January 2017, KO 20:00. United then entertain Liverpool at home on Sunday 15th January 2017, KO 16:00, before facing Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday 21st January 2017, KO 15:00. United will end the month away to Hull City in the second leg of the EFL Cup semi-final on Thursday 26th January 2017, KO 19:45. United could end the month in the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup but will need to beat Reading to earn a place in the draw.

Ratings: Manchester United 5-1 Middlesbrough – Premier League U18 2016/17

Manchester United U18’s beat Middlesbrough 5-1 in the Premier League U18 on Saturday afternoon at the AON Training Complex. Middlesbrough was unbeaten in 15 league matches at this level and sat below Manchester City in the league before kick-off today. United played well, using their 5-1 victory over Everton a week ago to inspire them to victory today. Indy Boonen put his side 1-0 up just before the end of the first half, with Boro finding an equaliser at the start of the second half. Looking resurgent, the visitors were looking to capitalise from their early inspiration, with United not letting that happen. Trialist Idris Kanu put United 2-1 up in the 52nd minute, assisted by DJ Buffonge. Just six minutes later he put United 3-1 up, Boonen assisting this time. United, full of thunder on the attack went 4-1 up minutes after that through Angel Gomes, who was the hat-trick hero a week ago. United just did not give up though with DJ Buffonge scoring United’s fifth, assisted by Jake Kenyon. Two consecutive wins by the same 5-1 scoreline. It may be early days yet to suggest United are back at U18 level after a poor season. United won today without Zachary Dearnley, Callum Gribbin, Joshua Bohui, Tahith Chong and Nishan Burkhart, who are all very attacking players, so added to today’s squad the future looks bright.

Goals: Indy Boonen 37′, Idris Kanu 52′, 58′, Angel Gomes 68′, Buffonge 90′

Manchester United: Moutha-Sebtaoui; Tanner, O’Connor, Dunne (Ercolani 51′), Kenyon; Whelan, Hamilton; Buffonge, Gomes, Boonen (Makela 71′); Kanu (Diedrick-Roberts 64′)

Substitutes Not Used: Barrett, Johnstone

Manchester United

Ilias Moutha-Sebtaoui

Played well during the first half, seldom having anything to do. Conceded early in the second half with Boro equalising.

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George Tanner

Did well throughout the match. Had some good interplay with Buffonge on the right flank. Impressed at time by getting forward.

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Lee O’Connor

Did what he needed to do and was the player that required the praise during the first half, but the commentators were praising Dunne instead (having got the players mixed up).

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52 Max Taylor

Was praised by the commentators for much of the match, when in fact it was O'Connor. Substituted early into the second half

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Jake Kenyon

Played well throughout the match. Did what was needed. Got an assist in the final minutes of the match by setting up Buffonge to score United's fifth.

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Callum Whelan

Had some good moments on the ball. Did some work for some of the goals, with the fifth coming from the work he put in to get the ball to Kenyon.

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Ethan Hamilton

Made his U23 debut last Sunday. Back in the U18's this weekend, doing what he needed to do in order for his team to prevail.

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DJ Buffonge

Assisted in the second goal, sending Kanu into the box and regaining United's lead.

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28 Angel Gomes

Had a great game for United U18. Had some lovely passes throughout the match, creating many chances. Got himself on the scoresheet by scoring United's fourth of the match.

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Indy Boonen

Scored the opening goal of the match from a tough angle. Could have scored again at the start of the second half. Boonen showed his class by setting Kanu up for his second goal teeing him up in the box as he was close to the line. His match ended on the 71st minuted after being replaced by Makela.

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Ratings: Manchester United 5-1 Middlesbrough – Premier League U18 2016/17

On trial at United. Had a quiet first half but scored twice in the second half, putting United back in the lead, then two goals clear. Looks like a decent talent at this level. Buffonge set him up for his first, Boonen for his second. Replaced on the 64th minute after suffering a knock. Sign him up!

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Substitutes

Luca Ercolani

Replaced Dunne. Played well from his introduction and chipped in to help deny Boro from getting back into the game after their equaliser.

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Ratings: Manchester United 5-1 Middlesbrough – Premier League U18 2016/17

Replaced Kanu. Threatened up front, but was unable to bag a goal himself.

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Ratings: Manchester United 5-1 Middlesbrough – Premier League U18 2016/17

Replaced Boonen. Came on after United went 4-1 up to give some more strength in midfield and steer United to their second victory in a row. United scored another after his introduction.

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copyright: JW