Martial, Pogba score late as Man United beats Middlesbrough
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Jose Mourinho's year looked like ending badly before his Manchester United team scored two goals in the closing minutes to beat Middlesbrough 2-1 in the English Premier League on Saturday.
Anthony Martial struck in the 85th minute at Old Trafford, quickly followed by Paul Pogba in the 86th, after Middlesbrough had taken the lead halfway through the second half through Grant Leadbitter.
United has now won five league games in a row.
It stays sixth with 36 points from 19 rounds, still 13 points behind leaders Chelsea at the halfway point of the season, but maintains its challenge for the Champions League spots.
The game could prove a turning point in a difficult season so far for Martial, who looked a genuine threat and nuisance to Middlesbrough as United dominated the 90 minutes, with 32 efforts on goal. The hosts were denied twice by the post, once by a contentious refereeing decision and on multiple occasions by their former goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
When Leadbitter lashed home his first Premier League goal in almost eight years it looked as though an upset was on the cards, but Martial and Pogba found the net in quick succession during a frantic finale.
Time was running out for United when Zlatan Ibrahimovic nodded down a long ball from the back and Martial cracked home a fine finish.
But United was not done yet, and put Boro away less than two minutes later.
Juan Mata played his part, pushing wide and crossing for Pogba, who placed his header expertly into the top corner.
That left United boasting a six-game winning streak in all competitions heading into 2017, a stark contrast to the eight games without victory that former manager Louis van Gaal brought up in the club's final fixture last year.
Ibrahimovic, who was unfortunate to see his acrobatic finish ruled out for high feet, ends 2016 with 50 goals in all competitions, placing him second behind Lionel Messi among players from Europe's top five leagues. The Swede did not add to his tally against Boro but played his full part in the United comeback.
United can count itself unlucky not to have taken a first-half lead.
First came Pogba's wonderful overhead kick, the Frenchman agonizingly close to adding a finishing touch worthy of Martial's raking cross-pitch delivery and Henrikh Mkhitaryan's delicately cushioned header.
When United hit the post a second time, in the 38th, it was less about the build-up and more about one sensational strike of the ball from Martial, whose 30-yard (meter) effort came back off the post with a thud.
United did breach Boro's back line moments later, Martial playing creator with a floated cross for Ibrahimovic, but the referee blew for dangerous play.
On the sidelines Mourinho recreated the finish as he disputed the decision with the fourth official
Middlesbrough drops a spot to 16th in the standings.