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Sunday, January 3, 1999 Published at 18:50 GMT

Sport: Football

United set up clash of the giants

Andy Cole grabbed a crucial equaliser for United

Manchester United 3-1 Middlesbrough

Denis Irwin and Ryan Giggs scored late goals to take United through to a mouth-watering home clash with Liverpool in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

BBC News 24's Paula Davies reports
A trip to Wembley may be only third on manager Alex Ferguson's list of priorities for this season, but it looked a remote possibility when Andy Townsend gave 'Boro the lead.

United had failed to make their territorial dominance count and supporters feared a repeat of the recent 3-2 Premiership win at Old Trafford by the visitors.

BBC Radio 5 Live's Ron Jones reports from Old Trafford
Andy Cole came to the rescue with a clinical strike but 'Boro held out until the final ten minutes when Irwin and Giggs provided the perfect finish for the majority of a 52,232 crowd.

"They were marvellous finishes and with the possession we had, that's one of the best performances of the season.

"I thought the intensity of the passing, the movement and the energy we spent on the game was brilliant," said Ferguson.

New role for Giggs

He pressed Ryan Giggs into service on the right-hand side of midfield in David Beckham's absence, while 'Boro included Paul Gascoigne, who missed the recent league meeting between the teams through suspension.

[ image: Jesper Blomqvist shields the ball from Neil Maddison]
Jesper Blomqvist shields the ball from Neil Maddison
The home side began at a ferocious pace with full-back Wes Brown making regular forays down the flank.

Jesper Blomqvist headed into the net in the 8th minute but Brown had delayed his cross a fraction of a second too long and the referee ruled the ball had gone out of play.

The early pressure was unrelenting and a corner led to 'keeper Mark Schwarzer palming the ball straight to Roy Keane, who wastefully shot high over the crossbar.

United were almost caught out in the 22nd minute when Dean Gordon shrugged Giggs off the ball and found Robbie Mustoe at the near post, but Peter Schmeichel was perfectly placed to block his close range header.

Nicky Butt worked a shooting chance for himself with a slick turn on the edge of the 'Boro box and then almost caught Schwarzer out when his attempted chip took a deflection off the back of a defender.

Middlesbrough's attacks were sporadic and they were indebted to full-back Curtis Fleming for two timely interventions.

Dwight Yorke beat two men in a weaving run which carried him into the penalty box but Fleming slid in to foil the former Aston Villa striker before thowing himself in the path of a Denis Irwin drive.

Schwarzer frustrates United

Schwarzer made excellent saves from Andy Cole and Yorke at the start of the second half before 'Boro caught out United's defence in the 52nd minute with a simple route one move.

A long diagonal ball was flicked on by Brian Deane and Townsend had time and room to pick his spot to Schmeichel's left.

Giggs began to find more space as United sought an early reply and his pass gave Cole another opportunity, but the shot was not good enough to beat Schwarzer.

[ image: Denis Irwin scores from the spot]
Denis Irwin scores from the spot
United old boy Gary Pallister was having a magnificent game at the heart of Middlesbrough's defence and made a brilliant tackle to deny Butt, but he could do nothing about the equaliser seconds later.

Giggs squeezed another excellent ball between defenders and Cole hammered it first time into the roof of the net.

Gascoigne was substituted in the 75th minute as 'Boro boss Bryan Robson sent on fresher legs, but United kept up the onslaught.

They were awarded an 81st minute penalty when Neil Maddison was adjudged to have tripped Butt and Irwin sent Schwarzer the wrong way from the spot.

"For Graham Barber to give us a penalty kick, it must have been a penalty," Ferguson joked afterwards.

There was no let-up and a tiring 'Boro defence was breached again in injury time as Giggs found the target after a 1-2 with sub Old Gunnar Solskjaer.

Man Utd: Schmeichel, Brown, Irwin, Stam, Berg, Giggs, Keane, Butt, Blomqvist, Cole, Yorke. Subs: Van Der Gouw, Solskjaer, Cruyff, Neville, Sheringham.

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Fleming, Gordon, Maddison, Pallister, Cooper, Mustoe, Townsend, Gascoigne, Ricard, Deane. Subs: Beresford, Beck, Stamp, Stockdale, Blackmore.

Referee: G Barber (Pyrford)

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