Chris Smalling messes up diving header against Middlesbrough

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At this stage of the season, results matter more than performances and that is certainly the case for Manchester United.

Starting Sunday's match against Middlesbrough without many usual first team stars due to injury or suspension, Jose Mourinho's men needed to be clinical to beat the relegation battlers 3-1 at the Riverside Stadium.

Goals from Marouane Fellaini and Jesse Lingard had given the Red Devils a comfortable lead with the minority of possession, however, an error from Chris Smalling handed Boro a glimmer of hope through Alvaro Negredo.

The hosts piled on the pressure in the final 10 minutes to make it a nervy finish before Antonio Valencia capitalised on an unfortunate slip from Victor Valdes to secure the three points.

Despite the result, it was an uncomfortable day in particular for Smalling.

Part of Mourinho's bizarre six-man defence which finished the game, Negredo and Rudy Gestede ensured Smalling was never given a second's rest.

As well as being at fault for Middlesbrough's consolation goal, the centre-back was lucky toavoid further embarrassment when he made a real mess of a backpass to David de Gea.

Middlesbrough v Manchester United - Premier League

Smalling tried to deal with a ball over the top by producing a diving header back to his goalkeeper - only to completely mistime his jump.

As you can see in the video below, the England international hilariously manages to land on the ball.

Fortunately for Smalling, the ball squirmed out from under his body to De Gea but it could have easily gone much worse.

If anything, it sums up United's performance. Unorthodox but just about enough to get the job done.

After a busy week and with plenty of testing fixtures just around the corner, Mourinho's side could ill-afford to drop points against a team in the bottom three.

The victory has lifted the Red Devils up into fifth and they are now just three points behind Liverpool in fourth with a game in hand.

Phil Jones
Chris Smalling
Manchester United

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