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MENAFN - Khaleej Times - 20/03/2017
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(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Manchester United moved up to fifth in the Premier League on Sunday with a 3-1 victory away to struggling Middlesbrough, who sacked manager Aitor Karanka on Thursday.

Jose Mourinho had said his team would "probably lose" because their current fixture congestion would lead to fatigue, but despite missing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Wayne Rooney and Ander Herrera, they counter-attacked well. Belgium international Marouane Fellaini headed them in front after almost half an hour's play for his first league goal of the season and Jesse Lingard scored the second just after the hour mark from 20 metres.

Boro' substitute Rudy Gestede pulled a goal back with 12 minutes left, but in added time goalkeeper Victor Valdes slipped, allowing Antonio Valencia to score a third United goal.

Middlesbrough, by far the lowest scoring team in the league, have still not won a league game in 2017. With United going into the game unbeaten in the league since October, there could hardly have been a greater contrast between the two sides' form.

By halftime Mourinho's side had made twice as many chances and taken the lead.

Valdes, after saving with his legs in quick succession, from Rashford and Valencia, was caught in no-man's land when Ashley Young crossed for Fellaini to head home.

It was the Belgian's first in the league since December 2015.

The second goal came from a classic break after regaining possession. The home defence stood off for too long, allowing Lingard to run on and score with a fierce drive from just outside the penalty area.

Boro' did show greater attacking intent than in many games this season and pulled a goal back when Chris Smalling failed to clear and Gestede poked in from close range. Any hopes of a dramatic recovery were dashed, however, when Valdes fell over lining up a clearance and Valencia was able to walk the ball into an empty net.

Meanwhile, Tottenham overcame the absence of leading scorer Harry Kane to beat Southampton 2-1 and close the gap on leaders Chelsea on Sunday.

First half goals from Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli at White Hart Lane gave Mauricio Pochettino's side the cushion they needed to hold onto victory after James Ward-Prowse halved the deficit early in the second half.

With 10 games remaining, the chances of overhauling Chelsea's 10-point lead are slim, but victory strengthened Spurs' position in the race to guarantee a top four finish by extending the gap to fifth place to seven points.

Southampton are well clear of the relegation places and their remaining aim this season is to maintain their top 10 standing.

Pochettino had insisted before the game his squad had the resources to cope with the loss of Kane, who was ruled out for up to six weeks after picking up an ankle injury in the FA cup quarterfinal victory over Millwall seven days previously.

The manager's confidence was not necessarily supported by the evidence from the opening months of the season when his team struggled in the absence of the England striker.

Then, Kane was sidelined for 12 games and in the nine games Spurs faced Premier League opposition during that spell, they won just three, scoring eight games.

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Khaleej Times




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