After Jose Mourinho made five changes to the side that convincingly beat Sunderland, it was always going to be interesting to see if the change in personnel would affect the winning run that Manchester United had been on. As it turned out, the Red Devils rolled back the years and akin to the Fergie era, staged a late comeback to hand Middlesbrough a 2-1 loss at Old Trafford.
The scoreline, however, was quite flattering to the side from Teeside as United had a whopping 32 attempts on goal. After club captain, Grant Leadbitter capitalised on a dozing United defence and scored the opener it looked set for another upset before Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba scored within two minutes to give United a dramatic win.
Former Manchester United goalkeeper, Victor Valdes was in fine form as he kept out former Barcelona colleague Zlatan Ibrahimovic on multiple occasions. However, the same cannot be said about referee Lee Mason, who made some controversial choices that could have affected the outcome of the game.
Here are how the players fared:
David de Gea: 7/10
de Gea did not have a lot of saves to make during the match. The Middlesbrough goal was quite difficult for the Spaniard to keep out.
Antonio Valencia: 7.5/10
Valencia had a typically solid game at right-back and cut out much of the service coming from Middlesbrough's left flank. He also provided service to his team’s attackers from the right wing.
Chris Smalling: 7/10
Smalling's return to the first team was good until Middlesbrough scored when he probably could have done better. He was brought off as a tactical move by Jose Mourinho to play three defenders at the back.
Eric Bailly: 7.5/10
Bailly was a rock at the back as he kept out the rare Boro attacks. He also initiated attacks, carrying the ball forward from defence.
Daley Blind: 6/10
Blind had a fairly tough time defending against the pacy Adama Traore. He also received a yellow card in one of his attempts to stop Traore.
Marouane Fellaini: 6/10
Fellaini had a fairly good game as he was given some liberty to drive forward with Ander Herrera sitting deep for Manchester United. Was taken off after an hour's play.
Ander Herrera: 7.5/10
Herrera sat deep in midfield and dictated the pace of the game. His ability to defend deep, as well as, drive forward turned out to be vital in many of the team’s attacks.
Paul Pogba: 9/10
Pogba had a brilliant game as he scored the winning goal for Manchester United three minutes from time. He showcased his passing abilities as he sprayed balls all over the pitch to perfection. The Frenchman also hit the post in the first half with an acrobatic overhead kick.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan: 8/10
Mkhitaryan's growth as a Manchester United player continued as he thrived in the free role granted to him by his manager. The Armenian created many opportunities for his teammates and was a thorn in the opposition's defence.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 8.5/10
Ibrahimovic was the provider for Anthony Martial's equalising goal in the 85th minute. He was unlucky not to have a goal against his name in the first half as the referee had ruled out his goal for a foul.
Anthony Martial: 9.5/10
Martial was Manchester United's best player on the night as he tormented the Middlesbrough defence time and again. He deservedly, scored the equaliser and his manager will be quite pleased with the Frenchman's performance after some mediocre showings earlier in the season.
Marcos Rojo: 6.5/10
Rojo played the last half hour after coming on for the booked Blind. He kept things tight after Manchester United went to three at the back.
Juan Mata: 7.5/10
Mata, who has been quite important for Man United in the season so far, was a threat right from the moment after he came on as a substitute in the 64th minute. Mata provided the assist for Pogba's winning goal.
Marcus Rashford: 7/10
Although he played only the last 20 minutes, Rashford caused havoc on the Manchester United left flank and even came close to scoring a goal.
Victor Valdes: 8/10
Valdes was without a doubt Middlesbrough's best player on his return to Old Trafford as he made a number of saves to keep out the Man United attack.
Calum Chambers: 5/10
Chambers was constantly harassed by Martial on the left wing and was awful for a major part of the game. He also picked up a yellow card in the process.
Bernardo Espinosa: 6.5/10
Espinosa was probably the better of the Boro defenders with his clearances and headers away and kept his side for the majority of the game.
Ben Gibson: 7/10
Gibson, along with Espinosa, was majorly involved in blocking and clearing the ball away from their own box
George Friend: 6/10
Friend had a great chance to score for Boro in the first half, however, the delay in getting a shot away cost him. He was mostly kept back in the defensive half due to constant attacks from United.
Marten de Roon: 6/10
De Roon played the deep-lying midfielder for Boro. Much of his job was to keep hold of Pogba which he was not able to execute very well.
Adama Traore: 7/10
Traore was the most threatening player for Middlesbrough with his electric pace. He constantly troubled the Man United defenders. However, his decision making on a couple of occasions let him down from getting on the scoresheet.
Grant Leadbitter: 7.5/10
The Middlesbrough captain, who had his first start of the season, scored the goal for his side. Leadbitter's awareness to make the run gave him space to shoot.
Adam Forshaw: 6/10
The young and talented midfielder was quiet for much of the game and was not able to display his attacking prowess enough to trouble the home team’s defence. However, he did play a role in Boro's goal.
Stewart Downing: 6/10
Downing sent in a few crosses but nothing that threatened the Manchester United defence. He was more present in the defensive third rather than the attacking third.
Alvaro Negredo: 6.5/10
Negredo was isolated for much of the match and saw very little of the ball. However, his headed knock-down set up the goal for Leadbitter.
Gaston Ramirez: 5/10
Ramirez came on for Downing in the 63rd minute. The Uruguayan did not have a lot of time and was not able to create much for his side.
Adam Clayton: NA
Clayton came on for the goalscorer, Leadbitter in the 78th minute. Not enough time to make an impact.
Fabio da Silva: NA
The former Manchester United full-back played only the last 10 minutes which was not a lot of time to change the game.Published 01 Jan 2017, 09:16 IST