Middlesbrough are knocking on the door of a play-off place in the Championship under the steady hand of Chris Wilder.
As it stands, the Teessiders are sitting 7th in the table on goal difference only. They are just four goals worse off than West Brom.
However, it was a switch of scenery on Friday evening as Boro travelled to Manchester United in the FA Cup 4th Round.
United boss Ralf Rangnick showed that he wasn’t taking the competition lightly and fielded an impressively strong side. This meant that Middlesbrough were going to have to fight tooth and nail the whole game.
The first half saw Rangnick’s Manchester United side dominate as expected with 66.7% of the possession and besting Boro 14-to-1 in the shot count. Wilder’s men had their backs to the wall but stood up well to the pressure being applied.
Big-money signing Jadon Sancho has already hit the woodwork before opening the scoring (25′), profiting from a Bruno Fernandes assist. Despite going behind, Middlesbrough refused to fold and battled to the half-time break just that one Sancho goal behind.
It was pretty much hit the repeat button in the second half as the home side swept forward, Boro struggling to contain them. Struggling to get a foothold in the game, it was always going to a difficult evening for Chris Wilder’s side. However, they stuck to the task and were rewarded when Matt Crooks (64′) pulled the Teesside outfit level.
Both sides continued to press, Boro having to make do with working their way forward from scraps of possession. As it turned out, there were to be no further goals and the game headed into extra-time. Extra-time itself saw both sides push hard for a winner but the game went to penalties.
Both sides matched each other kick for kick and the shoot-out headed to sudden death. Lee Peltier scored Middlesbrough’s eighth penalty, Boro going through after Anthony Elanga missed his for United.
Here are three Middlesbrough players who stood out in a big win against Manchester United that sees the Teessiders’ FA Cup involvement carry on after a fantastic display at Old Trafford.
Dael Fry – WhoScored rating 7.86
Central defender Fry played at the heart of a back three for Chris Wilder’s Middlesbrough side. The 24-year-old was facing a frightful Manchester United front line including Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo. He more than held his own in the face of this trio and he was a big part of Boro’s victory with six headers won and 13 clearances. He also converted one of the sudden-death penalties.
Jonny Howson – WhoScored rating 7.58
Veteran midfielder Howson was another who stood out for Boro. The 33-year-old rolled back the years with a mature performance that helped keep Manchester United at bay and his side ticking over. His passing and midfield tenacity helped keep Middlesbrough in a game where they knew their backs were against the wall. He continued this in extra time and had three clearances, four interceptions and one tackle. He also scored Middlesbrough’s third penalty in the shoot-out.
Matt Crooks – WhoScored rating 7.55
Scoring a goal is always going to rank a player high in the ratings and that’s what happened. Crooks’ goal will have been all the sweeter seeing as he was let go by United as a youngster. His game was more than that goal though and the defensive side his performance kept the hosts at bay, winning three tackles, making one interception and one clearance. He made way on 79 minutes and was replaced by Martin Payero.
Data derived from the Manchester United vs Middlesbrough match profile on the WhoScored website.