JOSE SALUTES GUTSY DEVILS
Mourinho lauds players’ grit in overcoming fatigue against Boro
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.