JOSE SALUTES GUTSY DEVILS

Mour­inho lauds play­ers’ grit in over­com­ing fa­tigue against Boro

New Straits Times - - Sport -

MID­DLES­BROUGH

JOSE Mour­inho praised Manch­ester United’s re­fusal to let fa­tigue get the bet­ter of them as they kept their top four bid on course with a 3-1 vic­tory at Mid­dles­brough yes­ter­day.

Hav­ing lost to Chelsea in the FA Cup last Mon­day and beaten Ros­tov in the Europa League on Thurs­day, Mour­inho had pre­dicted his team might strug­gle against a Mid­dles­brough team fight­ing to avoid rel­e­ga­tion.

United were also with­out star striker Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic, but goals from Marouane Fel­laini, Jesse Lin­gard and An­to­nio Va­len­cia sealed a vic­tory which left Mour­inho de­lighted.

“I ap­plaud our at­ti­tude and de­sire and our way of think­ing,” Mour­inho said.

“We don’t have plan B, C, D, E, F and G - but we have M, N, O, P and S.

“It is fan­tas­tic be­cause we man­age in the same week, to go to the quar­ter-fi­nals of the Europa League which is an im­por­tant tar­get for us.

“At the same time, we got th­ese three points that keep us in the race for the fourth po­si­tion so we still have two doors for Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball next sea­son.

“Th­ese guys gave ev­ery­thing, we started the game re­ally well, Valdes made three fan­tas­tic saves be­fore our first goal. We con­trolled ev­ery­thing un­til our sec­ond goal.”

Play­ers from both teams were re­port­edly in­volved in a tun­nel brawl after the full-time whis­tle, but Fel­laini wouldn’t com­ment when asked about the clashes.

“I didn’t see. I don’t know, I was in the dress­ing room,” he said.

Mid­dles­brough sub­sti­tute Rudy Gest­ede ini­tially ap­peared to bite de­fender Eric Bailly in a stop­page time melee on the edge of the vis­i­tors’ area in an al­ter­ca­tion missed by ref­eree Jon Moss and his as­sis­tants.

Re­plays showed there was no con­tact as the pair en­gaged in an an­gry clinch, but punches ap­peared to be thrown af­ter­wards in the play­ers tun­nel a both sides left the pitch.

Fel­laini scored his first Premier League goal for 15 months as Manch­ester United ex­tended their un­beaten Premier League run to 18 games to move up to fifth with after yes­ter­day’s win.

Lin­gard’s sec­ond and Va­len­cia’s stop­page-time third after an em­bar­rass­ing mis­take by for­mer United keeper Vic­tor Valdes as Jose Mour­inho’s side ended a 19week stay in sixth by climb­ing a place.

Their lat­est vic­tory as they be­came the first club to record 600 Premier League wins puts them a dis­tant 17 points be­hind lead­ers Chelsea but two points ahead of their near­est ri­vals Arse­nal and Ever­ton in sev­enth, boost­ing their hopes of a top-four fin­ish in the race to qual­ify for a place in next sea­son’s Cham­pi­ons League.

Mid­dles­brough pulled a late goal back through Gest­ede, but they re­main sec­ond-bot­tom, five points adrift of safety after an 11th league game with­out vic­tory as care­taker man­ager Steve Agnew tasted de­feat in his first match fol­low­ing the de­par­ture of Ai­tor Karanka. AFP

Manch­ester United’s Marouane Fel­laini (left) scores against Mid­dles­brough in their Premier League match yes­ter­day.

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