Sunday, 1 January 2017

Manchester United 2-1 Middlesbrough: Paul Pogba And Anthony Martial Complete Dramatic Comeback

Premier League

This time, Jose Mourinho used a strong sense of injustice to help produce a memorable late comeback for which a previous Manchester United manager was renowned.

Earlier in the season, a raging Mourinho had twice been sent to the stands where he was powerless to stop Burnley and then Arsenal from leaving Old Trafford with undeserved draws.

Not on this occasion. Mourinho stayed at his post even when United hit the woodwork twice, had a goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic controversially chalked off by referee Lee Mason and were then hit by the sucker punch of Grant Leadbitter’s 67th-minute opener for Boro.

Mourinho reacted to the setback by jumping to the edge of his penalty area to cajole his players with enthusiastic and motivational hand-clapping. He wasn’t tempted to hurl a water bottle even when a shove in the area on Marcus Rashford went unnoticed.

And finally, gloriously, Mourinho was rewarded as first Anthony Martial and then Paul Pogba turned the match around in just 86 seconds five minutes from time.

The crescendo of noise inside Old Trafford at the final whistle must have brought back happy memories for that former manager — Sir Alex Ferguson looked tanned and healthy on his 75th birthday following a winter break to South Africa.

This is Jose time now and after a faltering start, United have now gone 12 games unbeaten, the last six of which have been victories.

Given the competition at the top, they remain sixth but if the form of a resurgent Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan continues like this into the second half of the season they will be strong Champions League contenders and even Chelsea, 11 points ahead, might not be fully out of reach.

‘We managed to do something that is amazing which was to bring the fans to the pitch,’ said Mourinho. ‘For the last 20 minutes, we played with 70,000 people. And it was too much for a very well-organised team like Middlesbrough.

‘We dominated and were not afraid. I wished Sir Alex happy birthday before the game and I think it was a fantastic tribute to him. I think the United fans are loving the way this team are playing.’

‘You can imagine our reaction to the result,’ said Boro manager Aitor Karanka, who worked under Mou-rinho at Real Madrid.

‘I don’t like to lose but our performance against a top team was really good. We competed in a way where we will win games. We have to forget the result and remember the performance.’

Mourinho took a risk with his team selection, giving Phil Jones and Michael Carrick the afternoon off with Monday’s visit to West Ham in mind, and starting Marcos Rojo on the bench.

It led to early hesitation that saw Ander Herrera concede possession to Adama Traore after only two minutes with the Middlesbrough winger wasting a three-against-one break. But that was the best the visitors got for an hour as United dominated.

Paul Pogba hit the post with a bicycle kick from Mkhitaryan’s cross and Marouane Fellaini failed to beat Victor Valdes with a free header.

And then the game exploded into life after 39 minutes after Martial had struck the woodwork with a 20-yard drive. In the next passage of play, the Frenchman crossed from the left and Ibrahimovic raised his right leg to stab the ball in for what he thought was his 51st goal of an exceptional 2016.

After he’d made contact with the ball though, Boro goalkeeper Victor Valdes continued his challenge and collided with the striker before rolling on the floor in ‘agony’.

Mr Mason judged dangerous play on Ibrahimovic’s part, a decision that former World Cup final referee Howard Webb described as ‘a crazy call’ as the two protagonists were not close when the ball was played.

Valdes received treatment and was booed by United fans, but performed superbly to later keep out shots by Ibrahimovic and Martial.

Mourinho said: ‘Lee Mason will be very disappointed for sure because now he knows [the decision was wrong].’

Karanka defended Valdes against accusations he wasn’t really injured. ‘I asked him at half-time and he didn’t know if he could play the second half,’ said the Boro boss.

Mourinho kept his emotions relatively in check, concentrating more on his team, screaming at Juan Mata to hurry up and get ready to replace Fellaini.

He then witnessed the hammer blow of seeing Boro take the lead. Calum Chambers, who had been pegged back by the excellent Martial all afternoon, ventured forward for the first time and his cross was guided down by a perfect cushioned header from Negredo.

Almost unnoticed, Leadbitter slipped into the penalty area and from eight yards drove a low right-foot finish past David de Gea.

Mourinho brought on Rashford for centre half Chris Smalling and United redoubled their attacking.Rashford went down after Espinosa Bernardo put a hand on the back of his shirt. No penalty.

With time running out, De Gea’s pass out from the back to Bailly was followed by a 60-yard pass that was flicked on by Ibrahimovic’s head to Martial, the Frenchman keeping his cool and sending Valdes the wrong way from six yards.

United sensed a late winner as they would have done in the Fergie years. And Pogba who waited for Mata’s cross to arrive and expertly guided it in with his head.



Etiam at libero iaculis, mollis justo non, blandit augue. Vestibulum sit amet sodales est, a lacinia ex. Suspendisse vel enim sagittis, volutpat sem eget, condimentum sem.