Manchester United ended 2016 in dramatic fashion after two goals in a minute helped the Reds come from a goal behind to snatch a late 2-1 win over a stubborn Middlesbrough side at Old Trafford.
The Reds were halted by the woodwork twice in the first half as well as the referee after Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a goal ruled out for a high foot – a decision which looked harsh, before Grant Leadbitter put the visitors into a shock second-half lead. It looked like it was going to be a frustrating day for the Reds only for two late goals inside a minute from Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba to send United into 2017 with their fifth successive Premier League victory.
With Monday’s trip to West Ham United in mind, Jose Mourinho shuffled his pack by making five changes to the side that comfortably beat Sunderland on Boxing Day. Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly, Maroune Fellaini, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial all came in for Phil Jones, Marcus Rojo, Michael Carrick, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata.
The Reds naturally started on the front foot winning a succession of corners, but United were nearly the architects of their own downfall early on as Ander Herrera lost the ball to Adama Traore who along with two other Boro men sprung a counterattack which should have lead to the opener.
The visitors had a three-on-two situation, but instead of playing in either Stewart Downing or Alvaro Negredo, Traore, in front of the Stretford End, selfishly went for goal from 20 yards and failed to trouble David De Gea.
Aitor Karanka’s men knew they may not have a better chance to score all game and they were nearly made to rue their missed opportunity as Mkhitaryan’s header across goal was met by Pogba, but his acrobatic bicycle kick rebounded off the post.
The Teessiders had other ideas and responded instantly with their second big chance of the game. Another counterattack headed by dangerman Traore, who escaped the clutches of Daley Blind, meant the Spaniard had space to pull the ball back to George Friend, but his shot from 15 yards out was blocked by Fellaini.