Tha Sports Junkies 101

Manchester United Close Gap On Top 4

Premier League

Manchester United today moved a step closer to the top 4 with a win over Middlesbrough

Manchester, England – Manchester United today moved a step closer to the top 4 with a win over Middlesbrough. The Red Devils beat the relegation battling side 3-1, with goals from Marouane Fellaini, Jesse Lingard and Antonio Valencia.

As It Happened.

Middlesbrough started the game the brighter. The weakened United side, missing Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ander Herrera, took a while to adapt. Middlesbrough played the better football early on in terms of possession but failed to create any clear cut opportunities. The first clear cut chance of the game came in the 7th minute, when youngster Marcus Rashford showed his speed to breeze past Bernardo Ezpinoza, only to be stopped by ex red Victor Valdes. Middlesbrough did threaten next though with Gaston Ramirez. The Uruguayan beat Eric Bailly on the edge of the box and fired a right footed drive at the United goal. David De Gea pushed the ball wide.

The first goal of the game was scored by Marouane Fellaini. The goal came from a beautifully delivered Ashley Young cross which Fellaini headed in with ease. Jesse Lingard added the second and best goal of the game with a 30 yard scorcher into the top corner.  Rudy Gestede pulled one back late on for Middlesbrough,  but a late Victor Valdes mistake sealed the deal for United as Antonio Valencia tapped the ball into an empty net.

The game ended in a tunnel brawl, as tempers from incidents during the match spilled into the tunnel. An incident during the game stands out as the reason why. Substitute Rudy Gestede and Eric Bailly were involved in a coming together that many felt involved a bite. The coming together resulted in a flare up between both teams, with Boro player Ben Gibson at the heart of it. Gestede said of the incident after the game,”.

“We had a few words together, it was nothing major,”

 “He gave me a hug and a kiss, that’s it. I didn’t feel anything.

“Ben thought he bit me, so that’s why he reacted like he did. But I told him we were just talking, there was no problem.”

The Race For Top 4

The win means that United have now gone 18 unbeaten in the league. Their last defeat was on the 23rd of October last year in a 4-0 defeat to Chelsea.  Jose Mourinho’s side are now 4 points off Liverpool with 2 games in hand.  These are two home games against the high flying West Brom and sublime Everton. United will be without Ibrahimovic for both of these games as he serves the rest of his three match ban. Marcus Rashford impressed in his absence today. The main dilemma is whether United will focus on the league or the Europa League. Jose Mourinho stated in his post match press conference,”“Do I prefer to finish fourth or win the Europa League? I prefer to win the Europa League because it gives us the same — Champions League football — but it also gives us a trophy, prestige, a European Super Cup [final against the Champions League’s winners next August].

It remains to be seen what United will focus on, but no matter the outcome it will make for interesting viewing as the race for 4th place hots up.