Manchester United 2-1 Middlesbrough: Late Martial and Pogba strikes sends Reds to the brink of the top four

Manchester United 2-1 Middlesbrough: Late Martial and Pogba strikes sends Reds to the brink of the top four

Late goals from Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba gave Manchester United a 2-1 win over Middlesbrough.

Danial Kennedy

Manchester United ended 2016 in a dramatic fashion with late goals from Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba giving them a deserved 2-1 win over Middlesbrough.

It was a bright start to the contest at Old Trafford, with good opportunities for Adama Traoré, Pogba, George Friend, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marouane Fellaini all coming close. The half came to an end in controversy with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s effort incorrectly ruled out, seeing the half end goalless.

United continued to dominate at the beginning of the second period, but Grant Leadbitter's 67th-minute effort saw the away side take a shock lead. It didn't look to be United's day, but efforts from Martial and Pogba in quick succession secured the three points at the death.

Coming out the traps

Jose Mourinho’s side looked to end 2016 with another win to continue their conquest on the top four positions, but it was Aitor Karanka’s side that came flying out of the traps.

Traore had been a huge success for the Boro in the opening months of the season, and had an excellent opportunity just three minutes in. He did well to dispossess Ander Herrera and turned on the burners, it was a three on one situation with Stewart Downing to the side of him but he went alone and dragged it wide.

United came even closer in the 13th minute, as Mkhitaryan headed a ball back across goal from the ball into the area. It came to Pogba as he looked to top Mkhitaryan’s effort against Sunderland as he tried the bicycle kick but it came back off the post.

Traore was it again in the 17th minute as he burst to the by-line, with his ball making it’s way to Friend inside the area. The defender had all the time in the world to set up the effort, but it was brilliantly blocked by Fellaini.

Point to prove

Martial went into this clash with a point to prove, with the Frenchman linked with numerous moves away from Old Trafford but he showed just what he could do as the half went on.

He did brilliantly to wriggle through the Boro defence in the 29th minute before passing the ball to Mkhitaryan, it was a good effort from the Armenian but it was straight at Victor Valdes.

He was it again minutes later as he played a dangerous ball into the area which was flicked on by Fellaini, but Belgian’s headed effort nestled on the roof of the net.

Ending in controversy

It looked to be case of when not if United would take the lead, and it looked like they had only to be cruelly denied. Martial decided to have a shot of his own as he lashed one from 25 yards, but Valdes somehow managed to keep it out.

The big controversy arrived moments later as Martial played another ball into the area, and Ibrahimovic was there to stick his foot out and put it into the back of the net. However, referee Lee Mason decided to blow the Swede up for foul up, and much to the dismay of the Old Trafford faithful the goal was ruled out.


Against the run of play

United continued to turn the screw after the restart, with a good chance coming from Ibrahimovic but it was the away side who surprisingly drew first blood.

Boro had been dangerous in the first period in spells, and they rewarded for some excellent build-up play. The ball in from Calum Chambers was beautifully headed down by Alvaro Negredo, and it was easy enough for Leadbitter to fire past David De Gea.

Turned on its head

Despite falling behind continued to do what they had for the majority of the game, with Ibrahimovic, Martial and Juan Mata all banging on the door.

It didn't look like it was going to go there way, until Pogba's ball was headed on by Ibrahimovic and Martial despite the pressure managed to fire it home.

They completed their excellent turnaround just seconds later, as Mata managed to float the ball into the area at the second time of asking. It was on a plate for Pogba, who headed it into the top corner giving Valdes no chance.