Manchester United on Sunday moved up to fifth in the English Premier League (EPL) as Middlesbrough’s first game after the sack of manager Aitor Karanka ended in a 3-1 defeat.
Ashley Young’s deep cross found Marouane Fellaini at the back post to head past Victor Valdes, before Jesse Lingard’s terrific strike doubled United’s lead after the break.
Boro, with caretaker boss Steve Agnew in charge, were invited to apply pressure and when Chris Smalling made a mess of an easy clearance in the box, substitute Rudy Gestede pounced.
But former Manchester United goalkeeper Valdes slipped in stoppage time and Antonio Valencia’s tap-in secured the three points.
Jose Mourinho’s side therefore leapfrog Arsenal and Everton into fifth, while Middlesbrough remain 19th on the table and are now five points from safety.
Having parted ways with Karanka on Thursday, Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson charged Agnew with helping the Riverside club avoid the drop.
But the former assistant manager was unable to inspire his side to a fifth Premier League win this season despite dominating possession for large periods of the game.
Alvaro Negredo looked isolated up front before Agnew introduced Gestede on 67 minutes, and with two in attack Boro looked capable of drawing level.
But United, showing seven changes from their Europa League win over FC Rostov in midweek, ground out a tricky three points.
This was Manchester United’s 600th victory in the Premier League – making them the first side to reach the landmark.
While this was undoubtedly a historic moment for the club, their manager would be more concerned with their rise up the Premier League table.
He would also be concerned about the team’s ability to grind out a win without suspended top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic and injured record signing Paul Pogba.
Newsverge reports that United finished the day inside the top five of the Premier League table for the first time in 184 days.
They are also on an 18-game unbeaten run stretching back to a 4-0 loss to Chelsea in October.
However, they have only moved up two places, from seventh to fifth, during that spell.
Their fans will be happier they have finally relinquished sixth spot —- a position they have made their own this season.
But their progress might be too slow to fight off the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Spurs for a top four finish.