Premier League | Saturday 31 Dec, 2016 | Old Trafford | Attendance: 75,314 | Scorers: Martial 85, Pogba 86; Leadbitter 67.
10-3-6, 6th Premier League
P. Pogba, 86′ A. Martial 85′
4-9-6, 16th Premier League
G. Leadbitter 67′
On Manchester United’s legendary manager, Sir Alex Ferguson‘s 75th birthday, Manchester United gave Sir Alex a good birthday present and ended the calendar 2016 in dramatic fashion after two successive goals in a minute. United scared me because Middlesbrough (Boro) scored first and I was scared for the end of 2016. In no time, United came from a goal behind to snatch a late 2-1 win over a stubborn Middlesbrough side at Old Trafford. The first Whew!
United’s Swedish striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, had a goal ruled out for a high foot before Grant Leadbitter of Boro put the visitors into a shock second-half lead. Two United Frenchmen, Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba came to the rescue to send United into 2017 with their fifth successive Premier League victory. The second whew!!
Possession: United 65% Middlesbrough 35%
Shots at goal: United 15 Middlesbrough 6
Shots on target: United 3 Middlesbrough 0
Corners: United 7 Middlesbrough 2
Ibrahimovic nearly got to his 13th Premier League goal of the season as Pogba fed a pass through to him, but Ibra was this time denied by the legs of goalie Valdes.
Martial converted a long ball from Bailly (who is heading to Africa soonest) which was nodded on by Ibrahimovic and the Frenchman fired United to level with Boro.
Photo: The flying Frenchman Paul Pogba | He confounded Middlesbrough goalie Valdes.
A minute later and Old Trafford erupted for a second time as United players turned the game on its head. A cross from substitute Juan Mata found Paul Pogba who headed past the helpless Valdes meaning United ended 2016 in the most spectacular fashion – and made my final day of 2016. The third whew!!!
Possession: United 66% Middlesbrough 34%
Shots at goal: United 32 Middlesbrough 9
Shots on target: United 12 Middlesbrough 2
Corners: United 12 Middlesbrough 2
United: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling (Rashford 72), Bailly, Blind (Rojo 64); Fellaini (Mata 64), Herrera; Martial, Pogba, Mkhitaryan; Ibrahimovic.
Subs not used: Romero, Jones, Lingard, Schweinsteiger.
Middlesbrough: Valdes, Chambers, Bernardo, Gibson, Friend; Leadbitter (Clayton 78), De Roon; Traore (Fabio 82), Downing (Ramirez 63); Negredo.
Subs not used: Guzan, Ayala, Stuani, Rhodes.
Boss Jose Mourinho spoke to MUTV in his post-match press conference:
A WIN IN THE FERGUSON TRADITION
“He deserves to come here and for people to remember the game not just for his 75th birthday but also for the kind of football we played and the fact that we managed to bring the fans to the pitch. In the last 20 minutes, the fans were on the pitch – they were not in the stands. And this is a credit to the players, who showed amazing character to go and go and go and go. This time we were successful and it’s three more points.”
A SHAME FOR ZLATAN
“It’s hard because we respect the referees and they want to do well, but for us it is very disappointing [Ibrahimovic’s disallowed goal]. We scored a beautiful goal, a goal that would mean Zlatan and Messi would be the two top scorers in 2016 in European football. It is a goal that stopped such an amazing player being level with Messi as top scorer in 2016. So it’s quite frustrating, but it was another big test for us and the players. The reality is that my players deserve that amazing comeback.”
LATE TEAM RESHUFFLE
“I put Mkhitaryan at left-back when we scored the second goal because at 1-0 it was Negredo and Traore against Bailly and Rojo – two against two. Valencia was the winger, we had no left-back and we went for everything. Then when we scored the second goal, obviously, we started to close. I thought Micki was really fresh and could do a better job at left-back than other players, and I wanted to keep Herrera and Pogba in the middle, and we managed to keep the 2-1.”
Manchester United’s first fixture of the impending New Year 2017 is an evening Premier League matchup against West Ham on Monday Jan 2, 2017 next year, which kicks off at 17:15 GMT. I wish Manchester United a victorious new year 2017. The year 2017 will definitely usher a brand new start for the Red Devils. I’m hoping that United will pick up nicely from where we ended in 2016, to pick up where things were left off following a brilliant end to 2016. Manchester United is the only English team still fighting on four fronts. Jose Mourinho appears to have strung together an impressive sequence of wins to maintain the pressure on our rivals at the top of the English Premier League table – and that has thrilled me to no end.
This was a fitting close to the calendar year 2016 for me and millions of Manchester United fans from around the world. Happy birthday today to United legend, Sir Alex Ferguson, who obviously cherished the goals (photo above: inset). I hope all the readers and visitors to this my website will share my happiness at the grand finale orchestrated by our great club, Manchester United, today – on the New Year’s Eve matchup with Middlesbrough at Old Trafford – the Theater of Dreams!
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017 . . .
Up Man U!