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Boost for United - Fellaini goal provides spark as top-four push intensifies

Sports | Mar 20, 2017
Marouane Fellaini scored his first English Premier League goal for 15 months as Manchester United extended their unbeaten league run to 18 games to move up to fifth with a 3-1 victory at relegation-threatened Middlesbrough.

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

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

Mourinho had said United 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.

Mourinho praised the "attitude and desire" of his players, saying: "Our guys gave absolutely everything and were magnificent."

Middlesbrough pulled a late goal back through substitute Rudy Gestede, but they remain second-bottom, five points adrift of safety. It was Boro's first match since parting ways with manager Aitor Karanka last Thursday.

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 as both sides left the pitch.

United, last beaten in the league at the end of October, took a deserved 30th-minute lead through Fellaini. The Belgian midfielder had scored his previous league goal in a 2-1 defeat at Bournemouth in December 2015.

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