Manchester United returned to winning ways in the Premier League with a hard-fought 3-1 triumph over relegation-threatened Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium, becoming the first club to record 600 Premier League victories in the process.
Marouane Fellaini’s first-half header was doubled by Jesse Lingard in spectacular fashion just past the hour mark. Substitute Rudy Gestede gave Boro a fighting chance, but Antonio Valencia put the game to bed late on after capitalising on a mistake from Victor Valdes, meaning Jose Mourinho’s men move ahead of Arsenal into fifth in the Premier League.
United came into this one having not played a league fixture for two weeks, though it was the Reds’ 12th match in seven weeks, which led to Mourinho making seven changes in all from Thursday’s win over FC Rostov. David De Gea, Phil Jones, Ashley Young, Michael Carrick, Fellaini, Lingard and Marcus Rashford all came in to the starting XI.
Just 62 hours from leaving the field in that Europa League game, United were nearly off to the perfect start after just six minutes as Rashford evaded the Boro defence, but former Red Valdes saved down low when one-on-one.
At the other end, Gaston Ramirez tested De Gea, cutting in from the left and firing a fierce shot at goal, but the Spaniard tipped the ball wide of his far post.
The Reds, playing in blue, went very close to taking the lead on 24 minutes as fantastic team play lead to Juan Mata crossing for Rashford, who was denied by Valdes, before the Boro stopper blocked the re-bound from Valencia.
Mourinho’s men got the deserved opener on the half-hour mark as Young expertly crossed to Fellaini at the back post and he headed past Valdes from a yard out.