MANCHESTER United moved up to fifth in the Premier League yesterday with a 3-1 victory away to struggling Middlesbrough, which sacked its manager Aitor Karanka on Thursday.
Jose Mourinho had said his team would “probably lose” because its fixture congestion would lead to fatigue, but despite missing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Wayne Rooney and Ander Herrera, United counter-attacked well.
Belgium international Marouane Fellaini put his side in front after almost half an hour’s play for his first league goal of the season and Jesse Lingard scored the second just after the hour mark from 20 meters.
Boro’ substitute Rudy Gestede pulled a goal back with 12 minutes left, but in added time goalkeeper Victor Valdes slipped, allowing Antonio Valencia to score a third United goal.
Middlesbrough, by far the lowest scoring team in the league, has still not won a league game in 2017.
With United going into the game unbeaten in the league since October, there could hardly have been a greater contrast between the two sides’ form.
By halftime Mourinho’s side had made twice as many chances and taken the lead.
Valdes, after saving with his legs in quick succession, from Rashford and Valencia, was caught in no-man’s land when Ashley Young crossed for Fellaini to head home.
It was the Belgian’s first in the league since December 2015.
Mourinho praised the “attitude and desire” of his players.
“Our guys gave absolutely everything and were magnificent,” he told BT Sport.
Victory made United the first club to record 600 wins since the Premier League began in 1992.
On Saturday, Gary Cahill’s 87th-minute winner earned Chelsea a 2-1 win at Stoke City that sent the London side 13 points clear, while champion Leicester City’s resurgence continued with a 3-2 victory at West Ham United.
Craig Dawson scored two headers at The Hawthorns as West Brom condemned Arsenal to a sixth defeat in nine games in all competitions.
Chelsea was missing Eden Hazard due to what manager Antonio Conte termed a “little problem” affecting his calf. Despite that, the Blues took the lead in the 13th minute when Willian’s free-kick from wide on the left caught out Stoke goalkeeper Lee Grant at his near post.
Jonathan Walters levelled with a 38th-minute penalty awarded for a push on him by Cahill, but the England defender atoned to smash in a late winner from Cesc Fabregas’s free-kick.
Stoke’s Phil Bardsley was sent off in stoppage time for a second bookable offence.
A day after being drawn against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinals, Leicester won 3-2 at West Ham to record a fourth straight win since Craig Shakespeare succeeded Claudio Ranieri as manager. Leicester led 2-0 inside seven minutes, Riyad Mahrez’s cross from the right curling straight in before Robert Huth headed in a cross from Marc Albrighton.
Manuel Lanzini’s 20th-minute free-kick reduced the arrears before Jamie Vardy slammed in Leicester’s third.