Sunday, December 03, 2006
Manchester United show title class to pull six points clear of Chelsea
"It was a very important result for us because Middlesbrough is not an easy place to come, they have shown that in the past," the United manager added.
"But the lads have shown great resolution and we have got a good result."
Chelsea, who did not play this weekend, could find themselves nine points behind the leaders by the time they kick off against Arsenal on December 10, if United can overcome Manchester City 24 hours earlier.
Elsewhere, Arsenal moved up to third and gave their frustrated fans a much-needed tonic with a convincing 3-0 win over north London rivals Tottenham.
Liverpool registered a first away win this season with a 4-0 win at Wigan while Sheffield United escaped from the relegation zone by beating bottom side Charlton 2-1.
Scotland midfielder Darren Fletcher was United's match-winner, heading in from close range two minutes after Boro sub James Morrison had cancelled out Louis Saha's first-half penalty.
Emmanuel Adebayor's early strike and two penalties from stand-in captain Gilberto Silva allowed Arsenal to make light of the absence of injured skipper Thierry Henry with a 3-0 win over Spurs. The 152nd north London derby was a match the Gunners could not afford to lose after successive defeats at Bolton and Fulham.
"We were under a lot of mental pressure," acknowledged manager Arsene Wenger afterwards, "but the team responded well." With Portsmouth drawing 2-2 with Aston Villa and Bolton losing 1-0 at Reading, the win sent Arsenal into two crucial matches on high and in third place.
Wenger's men travel to Porto on Wednesday needing a point to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League, four days before their showdown with Chelsea. Spurs boss Martin Jol bemoaned what he regarded as a missed opportunity after watching Steed Malbranque squander a glorious early chance to give his side the lead.
"We saw that Thierry Henry was not playing and we knew Arsenal had lost recent games," said the Dutchman. "We sensed this was an opportunity, so we are disappointed."
Liverpool's dismal run on the road ended with a 4-0 demolition of Wigan. Craig Bellamy's early double was followed by a Dirk Kuyt strike and an own goal by Wigan forward Lee McCulloch inside the first 35 minutes. Reds boss Rafa Benitez is hopeful that Bellamy's performance is a sign of things to come from the Welsh striker, who was cleared of assault charges in a Cardiff court on Wednesday. "I think he knew he needed to show people he is a good player and maybe his mind is clear now and it's easier for him," Benitez said.
Bolton's push for Champions League football suffered a setback with Kevin Doyle the hero for Reading once again. A 33rd-minute strike was the Ireland striker's eighth league goal of the season.
At Fratton Park, a deflected strike from Colombia's Juan Pablo Angel earned Aston Villa a point eight minutes from time. The equaliser came just two minutes after Matt Taylor had claimed his second goal of the afternoon, from the spot, to put Portsmouth ahead. Gareth Barry had given Villa the lead with a first-half penalty.
Blackburn's African connection helped them overcome Fulham 2-0, with Congolese striker Shabani Nonda and South Africa's Benni McCarthy both on the mark at Ewood Park.
Club captain Chris Morgan and veteran winger Keith Gillespie scored second-half goals for Sheffield United as Neil Warnock's side came from behind to claim a precious win over Charlton.
Ireland midfielder Andy Reid's 17th-minute strike had given the visitors hope of a first win under new boss Les Reed but they ultimately succumbed to their tenth defeat of the season.