The match taking place at the Riverside Stadium this weekend will have ramifications at both ends of the table. Manchester United travel there looking for three points to get their top-four challenge back on track, while Middlesbrough desperately center to start climbing the table after dropping into the relegation zone. The first match between these two sides ended in a 2-1 victory for Jose Mourinho’s men and they will be pressing for a similar result this weekend.
Middlesbrough are coming into this match after sacking their manager. Aitor Karanka helped get the club promoted, but he hasn’t managed to impress in the Premier League. His tactics were too negative and their lack of goals has resulted in them falling into real danger. Although his side has been very solid with one of the best defensive records in the league, they haven’t built up enough points and for that reason, he had to go. It will be interesting to see if there is a positive reaction from the players this weekend.
The visitors have to make up a six-point gap to fourth place, albeit they have two matches in hand over Liverpool. Their total of ten draws has been too many and their inability to kill matches off has prevented them from establishing themselves in the Champions League spots. Despite their lack of wins in the league, United have managed to continue their impressive cup record, as they progressed to the quarter-finals of the Europa League with a narrow victory over FC Rostov. They will be targeting success in that competition, but they also need to climb the league table as sixth would be a disappointment.
The home side have dropped to 19th position in recent weeks as a result of their awful form. It was always likely that Karanka would leave his post before the end of the season, as he has overseen a miserly four league victories this season. This is even fewer than bottom-placed side, Sunderland. Middlesbrough have taken only four points from their last ten matches, scoring only three goals in the process.
Manchester United haven’t lost in the league since October, but despite their unbeaten run, they haven’t managed to press up the table as they would have hoped. Mourinho’s men have drawn four of their last six league matches and they need to start winning more matches if they seriously want to challenge for the Champions League places.
It is difficult to predict the Middlesbrough line-up as they will have a caretaker manager in charge of this match. They will be hoping that Bernardo is passed fit as they are short on numbers at centre back. Gaston Ramirez and Alvaro Negredo could both return to the starting eleven.
Jose Mourinho is unlikely to continue with three at the back as it hasn’t been working for the last two matches. Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford are all likely starters.
Middlesbrough Manchester United
George Friend could be back to feature after a calf strain. Daniel Ayala, Bernardo, and Rudy Gestede are all doubts. Meanwhile, Calum Chambers won’t feature as he remains on the sidelines with a foot injury.
Daley Blind and Paul Pogba are both expected to miss out after picking up injuries against FC Rostov. Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney could return after missing the last couple of matches. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ander Herrera won’t feature due to suspension.
There will be a better atmosphere at the Riverside Stadium after the sacking of Aitor Karanka. The fans had lost faith in the Spaniard by the end of his time in charge as he continued to serve up the same dire football. They were only going one way, but now they have a real chance of surviving. They have a great chance of getting a result against a depleted Manchester United side. It won’t be the greatest game and there is a good chance that these two sides will end level.
Score prediction: Middlesbrough 1-1 Manchester United