Manchester United finally climbed above sixth place but needed a hand from their former goalkeeper, Victor Valdes.
Jose Mourinho’s side were holding on to a 2-1 lead against Middlesbrough when Antonio Valencia scored a fortuitous third goal for the visitors in injury time.
The right-back’s run down the flank was halted by Fabio who then played the ball back to the keeper with no danger in sight.
Valencia however, chose to chase down the ball to put Valdes under pressure and it paid off. The Spaniard slipped just as he was about to clear the ball, allowing the United defender to score into an empty net.
The goal secured a 3-1 win which moved United out of sixth place after a 133-day run.
Well smalling did his best to shaft us, thank you valdes pic.twitter.com/v67Xj6yLbC— MUFC RED KNIGHT (@MUFCRedKnight) March 19, 2017
Special agent Victor Valdes to the rescue. pic.twitter.com/JUNfdtW0TT— Babs (@Babs_SP) March 19, 2017
Iconic defender Carles Puyol has declared it is only a matter of time until Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola delivers the glowing and trophy-laden football the pair enjoyed together at Barcelona, despite a chastening exit from the Champions League.
Guardiola, 46, whose side face Liverpool on Sunday, has come in for criticism about his defensive organisation after a 3-1 second-leg defeat to Monaco in the round of 16 saw him fail to make the competition’s last-four for the first time.
This follows a debut season at Etihad Stadium in which an expensively-assembled squad has been unable to mount a sustained push in the Premier League’s title race.
As captain, Puyol lifted two Champions League trophies, a pair of FIFA Club World Cups, three La Ligas and two Copa del Reys alongside his revolutionary former boss from 2008-12. This record was at the forefront of the 38-year-old’s mind when quizzed about the City situation on Saturday night in a role as mentor for the du Football Champions finals at Dubai Mall.
“I think he is doing a good job,” said Puyol, who made 682 appearances in total for Barca plus claimed Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 during his 100 caps for Spain.
“It’s always tough arriving to a new league, with a new mentality and with a very different style of football. I am certain he will win titles with Man City in the future and that they will play brilliant football, the Pep style of play.
“You have to go step by step and have some patience.”
On Friday, Barca drew out perennial Serie A winners Juventus for a taxing quarter-final. It was a miracle they were still in the mix after history was made in the last round, coming back from 4-0 down against Paris Saint-Germain to epically win 6-1 and proceed.
“After the comeback Barcelona had in their last match, they are considered the favourites,” added Puyol. “After trailing 4-0, logically they had more possibilities to get eliminated than to advance.
“But they believed, they fought for it and they came back. And now they are favourites to win.
“Juventus are a very tough opponent and Barcelona have to play at a very high level to stop them.”
In contrast, Puyol was evasive about the identity of the next Barca coach, following ex-team-mate Luis Enrique’s decision to step aside in the summer.
He said: “Right now, I think about Luis Enrique who is the coach of the team. It’s not my job to be concerned with this, it’s something for the club to think about.”
In tandem with ex-Real Madrid and Spain stalwart Michel Salgado, Puyol was in Dubai to oversee the conclusion of a competition in which talented footballers in the UAE can win trials with La Liga clubs.
“I was surprised by the level of the players, both the boys and the girls, and some of them have chances to play in Spain,” said Puyol.
Juan Mata is a tireless workhorse in Manchester United’s midfield engine room.
The talented Spaniard puts in everything for his team when he’s out on the pitch and that’s been quite evident this season as well.
On Thursday night, Mata scored what was the deciding goal against Rostov for United in their Europa League encounter – helping the Red Devils through to the quarter-finals of the tournament.
And according to WhoScored’s Stat, Mata has now scored 10 goals in all competitions for the third season in a row.
A player with tremendous work ethic and a knack of being in the right place at the right time, Mata has risen to become Jose Mourinho’s key goalscoring midfielder.
And one thing looks certain, there’s surely more goals to come from him this term.
Juan Mata: Has scored 10 goals in all competitions for the third season in a row #UEL— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) March 16, 2017